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PIP Reassessments: Lifelong Disabilities

Volume 654: debated on Monday 11 February 2019

6. What recent assessment her Department has made of the effect of personal independence payment reassessments on claimants with lifelong disabilities. (909112)

Our new guidance, which was introduced last August, now ensures that claimants with chronic conditions that are unlikely to change over time will receive an ongoing award, with only a light-touch review every 10 years. This is an important step in preventing those long-term claimants with the highest needs from having to undergo unnecessary reviews of their condition.

I appreciate the Secretary of State’s response, but will her Department review the cases of those who have already had decisions overturned? For example, I had a constituent with three brain tumours. She was awarded the highest rate of daily living and mobility allowance in 2016, but then reassessed in 2018 and not awarded anything. We had to appeal that decision, the appeal was of course successful, and she received a backdated payment of £5,000. I am sure the Secretary of State would agree that that was cruel and inhumane for someone at my constituent’s point of life. Is the Department going to look back at how many people slipped through the net over the past few years, before the Secretary of State made changes?

It is difficult to make policy based on individual cases discussed across the Chamber, but if the hon. Lady wants to show me that individual case, I will certainly look to see whether it should impact on the changes we have already made and will look at going forward.

Since 2013, nearly 8,000 disabled people have died within six months of being found ineligible for personal independence payments—yet more evidence that the assessment process is not fit for purpose. If the Secretary of State is not prepared to scrap this inhumane process, will she at least support the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), which would remove the arbitrary and cruel six-month time limit for people with a terminal illness?

The hon. Lady will be aware that under disability living allowance there were also assessments and difficulties with getting people paid on time, so let us not pretend that this is a wholly new change in terms of the consequences. I have started to look at the proposal from the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), to make sure that people with a terminal illness are treated correctly and get the support that they need as soon as possible.

The personal independence payment reassessment process is taking far too long for my constituents, with an average delay of more than 40 weeks. That causes a problem for people with significant health concerns. What action is my right hon. Friend taking to substantially reduce the waiting times in the Bolton and Wigan area?

I thank my hon. Friend for fighting so hard for his constituents and making sure that the most vulnerable in his constituency are well represented and looked after by their Member of Parliament. I believe he was referring to the tribunal reviews that take place when there are PIP appeals. We are working with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service to make sure that we speed up the process to ensure that the waits are not so long.

It is all very well for the Secretary of State to say nice words about light-touch reassessment, but she will be aware of the case I raised last week in which a constituent whose condition worsened was assessed and lost her benefit as a result, and she will be aware of the case I have previously raised of the constituent whose leg was amputated and who was then assessed, on the basis of a phone call, as being able to walk four times further than he could the previous year on the basis of a work assessment. When are we going to see the reality of these assessments match up to the nice cuddly words we get from the Secretary of State, instead of their being used as a brutal and inhuman way to take people off benefit?

I would caution the hon. Gentleman about being so negative about an assessment that, yes, works for the vast majority of people. Only a certain number of the appeals get through and only 5% of the total number of assessments are overturned. I do not want people generally who are listening to and watching this exchange to think that the assessments are something to be fearful of. The people who conduct these assessments are sympathetic, thoughtful people who try to give the right answers. [Interruption.] Yes, they are. I urge the hon. Gentleman to let me know if he has a particular case or cases, because I or the relevant Minister will always talk to him and make sure that the outcome is settled.