The petition of the residents of Linlithgow and Falkirk East,
Declares that the petitioners believe that Personal Independent Payment (PIP) forms are extremely complex; further that assessors do not fully understand the impacts of all disabilities; and further that the current rules are leading to many recipients unfairly losing their benefits and thus having to go through a very stressful appeal process which worsens their condition.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to undertake a full review of the PIP claims process and in particular to ensure that the assessment criteria are fit for purpose; further that PIP claim forms are simplified; further that staff training and guidance are improved to ensure better decisions; and further that lifetime PIP awards be made to people with the most severe conditions and deteriorating condition.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Martyn Day , Official Report, 24 October 2017; Vol. 630, c. 270.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr David Gauke):
We are absolutely committed to supporting disabled people and are determined that support should be focused on the people who need it most. We want to enable disabled people to have the same opportunities and choices as non-disabled people. We have, therefore, designed the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to reflect a modern understanding of disability, treating all conditions fairly.
PIP maintains the key principles of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as a non-means-tested cash benefit available to people in and out of work but which is delivered in a fairer and more consistent manner. It is only right that support is targeted at those disabled people who require the most assistance to lead independent lives and PIP is achieving that. A total of 29% of the 1.5 million claimants now receiving PIP are getting it at the highest level (£141.10 a week), compared to 15% for working age DLA prior to the introduction of PIP.
Key to the benefit is a more objective assessment, which allows us to accurately, consistently and fairly assess individuals’ needs across all health conditions and impairments. The PIP assessment was developed in collaboration with a wide range of experts and through comprehensive, iterative and transparent public consultation. Under the new assessment criteria, 40% of those previously in receipt of DLA are now receiving a higher rate of benefit in PIP.
We are committed to a continuous programme of improvement to the PIP assessment process, for example introducing changes so that existing claimants with the most severe, lifetime disabilities, whose functional ability has remained the same, are more likely to have their evidence reviewed by a DWP Decision Maker without the need for a face-to-face assessment with a health professional. Since its introduction in 2013, the PIP assessment and processes have also been the subject of two independent reviews with a range of improvements introduced following the first review. The Department is currently considering the second review, published on 30 March, and plans to respond by the end of this year.
The claiming process for PIP was co-produced with the assistance of disabled people, carers and organisations supporting them. In particular, the PIP2 questionnaire was designed to allow claimants to tell us, in their own words, how their health condition or disability impacts them on a day-to-day basis. To aid completion, the questionnaire has a mixture of tick boxes and free text boxes allowing claimants to add as much detail as they wish and we provide guidance notes to help them complete it. Following earlier concerns about time limits for submitting the questionnaire, we introduced rules and procedures that allow claimants additional time to complete it where that is reasonably required. Recent research carried out by Ipsos MORI indicates that 85% of claimants were able to complete all sections of the form and only 4% were unable to do so. The research also shows that 63% of claimants found completing the form easy or easier than expected.
The health professionals carrying out the assessments have training in multiple and complex conditions. The assessments are, therefore, carried out by professionals from a range of different backgrounds. This includes doctors and nurses, also professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists, who we believe have a better skills set for this type of assessment. In addition to their qualified profession, we recognise the importance of ensuring individuals have sufficient experience, skills and training and so any health professional undertaking assessments must have at least two years’ experience following registration as well as awareness training in specific conditions.
DWP case managers also receive comprehensive training and are supported by a range of regularly updated guides to help them in their role, such as the Advice for Decision Maker’s guide and the PIP Assessment Guide, which is regularly updated. Case managers also receive disability-specific training, have the support of quality assurance managers and there are regular internal events to ensure they are up to date with the latest guidance, including changes made by case law.
Decisions on eligibility for PIP are made after careful consideration of all the evidence, including the assessment report from the assessment providers and information provided by the claimant and other healthcare professionals they engage with. Once someone has been awarded PIP, which can be paid at one of eight rates, that award will be reviewed. Reviews of PIP are a key part of the benefit and ensure that not only do awards remain correct where needs may change but that we also maintain contact with the claimant, both features missing from its predecessor DLA. Importantly, the length of an award is based on an individual’s circumstances and can vary from nine months to an ongoing award, with a light touch review at the ten-year point. PIP already recognises that for the most severely disabled claimants, the award review process could seem unnecessarily intrusive. That is why we introduced changes so that existing claimants with the most severe, lifetime disabilities, whose functional ability has remained the same, are more likely to have their evidence reviewed by a DWP case manager and will not need to have a face-to-face assessment with a healthcare professional.
We are committed to ensuring that the claiming and assessment process works effectively across the spectrum of disabilities and health conditions, including mental health conditions, cognitive impairments and physical disabilities. If a claimant disagrees with a decision they can request a mandatory reconsideration of the decision. If a claimant disagrees with the outcome of the mandatory reconsideration they can appeal to the independent Social Security and Child Support Tribunal. Of the 2.64 million decisions made to June 2017, only 8% of all decisions have been appealed and only 4% of all decisions have been successfully appealed, often as a result of new evidence presented to the Tribunal.