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PIP Assessors: Mental Health Awareness

Volume 641: debated on Monday 21 May 2018

13. What mental health awareness training her Department provides for personal independence payment assessors. (905446)

Assessment providers write and deliver training for health professionals; this includes how to identify the impact of mental health conditions on claimants. We require providers to have mental health function champions who are available to provide advice and support. They must have at least two years’ full post-registration clinical experience in the management of the relevant conditions.

I suggest the Minister goes back and sees how that works in practice. A constituent came to see me recently about their personal independence payment assessment; they were asked during the course of the assessment why they thought their previous suicide attempts had not been successful. Does the Minister share my disgust at that cruel, inhumane and disgusting way of asking questions?

From the way the hon. Gentleman has presented that, of course I would unequivocally agree that it was totally unacceptable. The assessors are not given a script, and we expect them to treat everybody with utter respect and dignity.

On Friday I attended a simulated work capability assessment in Chelmsford and it was very helpful. What progress is my hon. Friend making to ensure that all assessments for employment and support allowance and PIP can be more regularly recorded so that those with mental health and other concerns have greater transparency?

I am pleased that my hon. Friend took the opportunity to visit her assessment centre; I am always happy to arrange these meetings so that hon. Members can see at first hand what is usually a very professional, very compassionate assessment. But of course we want to go further and make sure that every assessment is a good assessment, and recording is definitely part of our plans for improvement.

Some 75% of claimants in Wales who appealed against decisions to reduce or stop PIP were successful; that is 8,000 people in Wales who have needlessly worried about having payments stopped. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Wales were unavailable to comment on this at the Welsh Conservative conference on Friday, but can the Minister tell the House when the Government are going to get a grip on this situation?

Some 3.1 million PIP decisions have been made, and 9% of them have been appealed and 4% of those have been overturned. I am absolutely determined to make sure that we make the right decision every time; we should get it right the first time, and we have put in place a whole series of actions to make sure that that is the case.

The Secretary of State accepted that there was a failure of assessment of people with mental health conditions and said that this would be remedied, but we have been told by our job centre that guidance has not changed, and a young man who is suffering from appalling post-traumatic stress disorder in my constituency is still being treated as if he does not qualify. When will guidance actually change? We are still producing more injustices.

As I said in answer to an earlier question, we insist and make sure that the healthcare professionals undertaking the assessments are appropriately trained and have the right expertise, and the guidance is kept under constant review to make sure we get it right first time.