Thousands of Disabled People in Merton are Being Unfairly Denied PIP
Merton Centre for Independent Living research has shown that over 2500 Disabled People have already been denied PIP or had their benefit reduced, and thousands more are at risk.
Personal Independence Payments (PIP) is a benefit that helps with some of the extra costs caused by long term ill-health or disability. It is a replacement for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and has different eligibility criteria, ie it is the benefit which has changed, and not people’s impairments.
At Merton CIL we have supported numerous people through the PIP benefits process. Based on our direct experience supporting local Disabled People, we gathered evidence and raised concerns about problems with the process in October 2016. This was picked up by MP for Mitcham and Morden, Siobhain McDonagh, and raised in Parliament. We also covered the issue in our Spring 2017 newsletter, which includes personal testimonies from some of our readers.
Following the release of new DWP statistics, we have been able to identify that over half of Disabled People in Merton who previously received DLA, are having their benefit reduced or losing it completely in the changeover to PIP. The impact on people having their PIP cut is huge, and could amount to several thousand pounds over a year, because people also lose their entitlement to other support like Blue Badge, or Carers Allowance for the person caring for them.
Our casework evidence has found that the process of assessing Disabled People for PIP is unfair. We have found that assessment centres are inaccessible; this includes centres which are physically inaccessible, have no disabled parking, or are as far away as Barking. We found that assessment centres are being deliberately overbooked, so Disabled People face long waits and last minute cancellations. One assessor told us she had 20 assessments on her list, but she could only do 6 in the time available. Finally, we found that there was a worryingly high number of inaccurate assessments where people were being awarded zero points at assessment, but then awarded 30 points if they appealed and went to tribunal. In fact, following a Freedom of Information request, Merton CIL has discovered that 77% of PIP appeals are overturned by Sutton Tribunal, which is significantly higher than the national average (65%). This means that although the DWP claimed people weren’t eligible for PIP, the Tribunal awarded the benefit saying that the person had been entitled all along. This means that assessors are getting it wrong in over two thirds of cases.
Earlier this month, Merton CIL were given the opportunity to formally present our concerns to the Merton Healthier Communities and Older People Overview and Scrutiny Panel, and we supported one of our service users to speak up about their experience too. Councillors were shocked by the report and experiences, making comments such as “we should challenge this”; “there is a harmful impact”; “its completely unacceptable”; “its wrong”. Representatives from DWP had decided not to attend the meeting so Councillors have agreed to work cross-party to urge DWP to attend the Panel and answer questions.
At Merton CIL we welcome the support of Merton Council to address this concerning issue, and also thank Citizen’s Advice Merton and Lambeth for attending the Scrutiny meeting and sharing their experiences. We further urge the Merton Council to inspect assessment centres and challenge issues around access and accuracy.
If any of our readers have been denied PIP, we encourage you to appeal the decision!
You can read our full report on PIP issues here: Merton CIL Briefing on PIP Assessment Challenges
You can read more about the Scrutiny Meeting here: https://democracy.merton.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=151&MId=2797
You can watch the video or read the transcript of PIP issues being mentioned in Parliament here http://www.siobhainmcdonagh.org.uk/newsroom/news.aspx?p=105231
You can read our Spring 2017 Newsletter here: http://www.mertoncil.org.uk/news/news-2016/cil-matters-newsletter-issue-1/