Assessments play an important part in ensuring people get the right entitlement. It is the claimant’s chance to give all the information needed to help make the right decision. The assessment, which measures the impact of a health condition on a person’s ability to live independently, is kept under review; I am sure the hon. Lady is familiar with the tests and trials set out in the White Paper.
The Minister will know that one challenge with PIP is how to accurately assess fluctuating conditions. More than half a million people in the UK are living with Crohn’s disease or colitis, but fewer than 3% are in receipt of PIP. Past applicants have said that while fatigue is the most disabling symptom, they feel that that is the least represented symptom in their assessments. [Interruption.] Would the Minister consider introducing a fatigue rating scale to PIP assessments to more effectively capture what is, for many, the most debilitating component of their condition?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her interest in this issue. Through the White Paper reforms, we have advocated for a number of tests and trials, including one that focuses specifically on better capturing fluctuating conditions. I would be keen to have conversations with her about that. The Government are committed to working with charities and those that are interested, including disabled people, to ensure we get those reforms right.
I agree with the importance of having a timely assessment. Last week, a constituent raised her case with me: she filled in her renewal form nine months ago, but has been given less than two weeks’ notice for an assessment next week. Surely we need to have assessments when the form is fresh and accurate, not nine months later?
The waiting time for PIP decisions has come down considerably in recent times, but I am not complacent about that, as we want to go further in seeing those waits reduced. For example, being able to apply online is an important part of that journey, as well as improving interfaces and making sure people provide all the right information up front. If we can provide better support for that, it will help us make decisions sooner, which can only be welcome.
I urge the Minister to look specifically at how PIP is assessed for those with brain injuries. It is well known that the effect of a brain injury may vary over time—people go up and down, and many who have had a brain injury want to give a very positive impression of how they are, which gives a false impression when it comes to assessing whether they need PIP.
I am very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s point—he has been a passionate and tireless campaigner on the issue of brain injury for a long time. These are exactly the sorts of issues that we want to look at as we take this reform forward. I mentioned our changes around fluctuating conditions, but we also want to look at issues such as expert assessors and having specialists working with individuals to carry out the assessment to ensure a proper understanding and, hopefully, build confidence around decision making.
Our excellent, proactive Minister is no doubt testing out concepts ahead of the forthcoming White Paper. Does that include extending the severe conditions criteria so that people with conditions such as motor neurone disease can automatically access support without the need of an assessment?
I am fortunate that my hon. Friend was one of my predecessors as Minister for Disabled People, as he is a tireless campaigner on these issues and has done much to take the agenda forward. On the severe disability group, we remain committed to this work. We have worked with an expert group of specialist health professionals to draw up a set of draft criteria. We have started initial testing at small scale, and we are looking to scale that up as we move forward, because we want to get this right and we think that this is a significant change.