PIP: New benefits system ‘demeaning and degrading’

A new system of assessing benefits is degrading and demeaning according to some claimants.

Disability Living Allowance is changing to Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

As a result, more than 100,000 people in Northern Ireland are being reassessed.

Seán Fitzsimons, 33, has muscular dystrophy, diabetes and a chronic respiratory problem. He works for the charity Disability Action.

He said that despite that, he was still nervous about the reassessment in case he had his benefits cut.

“It was like a dark cloud hanging over me, I was very nervous about it,” he said.

“DLA has been of tremendous benefit to me in terms of trying to level the playing field and to help me live as independently as possible and to contribute back to society – to go to work and get up and all the rest of it.”

His interview happened before Christmas. Claimants moving from DLA to PIP automatically face a delay of four weeks.

‘Financially devastating’

On top of that his benefits were cut.

“The financial impact on me was devastating,” he said.

Seán Fitzsimons said the reassessment was like a “dark cloud hanging over me”

“I was previously getting DLA on a weekly basis and that then stopped the week before Christmas.

“I wasn’t able to heat my home over Christmas and I don’t say that lightly – it was financially devastating.

“I didn’t know what was going to become of me – could I still work five days a week? It took the legs out from under me.”

Mr Fitzsimons’ colleague Patrick Malone is registered blind and a kidney condition left him needing a kidney transplant.

‘Normal life’

After his interview he received more benefits, but he feels the whole conversation around disability benefits has become very toxic.

“I’ve had it told to me it stands for drinking living allowance,” he said.

Patrick Malone said the conversation around disability benefits has become toxic

“I depend on it mostly for taxis as I can’t drive, but I would much rather never to have been in receipt of a single penny of DLA or PIP.

“I would much rather have a normal life with all the things that come from that.”

So far, 40,000 people have been reassessed – that’s about a third of the total number on DLA in Northern Ireland.

The Department for Communities has yet to publish a breakdown on how many people have had their benefits cut, increased or removed altogether.

In a statement it said: “In the event that a customer is not entitled to PIP they can ask the department to look at the decision again.

“If following that review they are not satisfied with the outcome they have a right of appeal to an appeal tribunal which is completely independent of the department.”

The Department of Communities said people have the right to an appeal if they are denied benefits following reassessment

It also said the executive had put in place a number of mitigation schemes to support people who lose out financially as a result of the changes including those transitioning from DLA to PIP.

Capita, who carry out the interviews, said they are committed to an ’empathetic process’ and recognise the ‘importance and sensitivity of their role’.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-43968546

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