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Personal Independence Payments: Disability Assessment

Volume 638: debated on Monday 26 March 2018

3. If she will take steps to ensure that personal independence payments claimants who have been diagnosed with degenerative medical conditions do not have to undertake a disability assessment. (904549)

Assessments are important, so that people who need support receive the right level. Where there is enough existing evidence to determine benefit entitlement, claimants do not need a face-to-face assessment. We are committed to continuously improving PIP, so that those with degenerative diseases get the support they need in a timely fashion.

People with degenerative neurological conditions, such as motor neurone disease, are still being called for PIP assessments, which is degrading and causes much distress. Will the Minister therefore ensure that the practice ends immediately, so that people’s dignity can be restored?

PIP is working, and it is working well for all people with disabilities, including those with degenerative conditions. The reality is that 89% of claimants with motor neurone disease are on the enhanced rate of daily living and 90% are on the enhanced rate of mobility. That compares with 52% on the higher rate of care and 89% on higher rate mobility under the disability living allowance, the predecessor benefit.

Last week, I hosted a pensioner and senior citizens’ fair in Morley and Wrenthorpe. At the event, a gentleman with Parkinson’s disease told me that he had to reapply for PIP every two to three years, which caused him great distress. What are the Government doing to ensure that claimants with degenerative conditions such as that do not have to go through any unnecessary stress?

It is absolutely right that we would like to make decisions without face-to-face assessments where possible. Where there is medical information, we do not ask people for such assessments. Of course, how often we ask people for reassessments is down to the healthcare professional, so sometimes people are not asked for a long period of time.

Several constituents who are claiming both employment and support allowance and PIP have told me that the application forms are difficult to complete. The forms ask for a lot of the same information and are completed exclusively by some of the most vulnerable in our society. Anyone would think that the Government wanted to make the process and the forms unnecessarily complicated and difficult. Why not make the forms easier to understand and allow applicants to be considered for both benefits with one form?

We work very hard with stakeholders. Our forms are co-designed by disabled people and those who support disabled people, and I am grateful for the efforts to which they go to work with us. It is well worth noting the relatively high levels of satisfaction with the application process, but we are of course always looking for ways to improve things.

I welcome the Department using a collaborative approach with stakeholders and healthcare professionals to ensure that reassessments for severe conditions are as simple as possible. Will my hon. Friend continue to work with those stakeholders, who are often experts in their field, to improve the assessment process, particularly for conditions such as MS?

My hon. Friend makes a good point about how closely we work with disabled people and stakeholders. He makes particular reference to the severe conditions work that we have implemented for ESA claimants, where we have worked with stakeholders to design a new process, so that the most poorly and vulnerable people have a personal, tailor-made process.