Punished for being ill: ‘Benefit changes made my illness much worse’

A Lancashire dad has criticised a new disability support assessment system which he says put his livelihood – and health – at risk. Michael Gibson, 36, from Chorley, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease when he was just 18.

What is PIP?

It replaced Disability Living Allowance for under 65s and it has two components – the Mobility component for people who have trouble getting about and the Daily Living component which is for help with carrying out everyday activities, such as washing and dressing.

Each can be paid at a standard or an enhanced rate per week. The DLC standard rate is £55.65. The enhanced rate is £83.10. The Mobility standard rate is £22. The enhanced rate is £58.
Tracy Hopkins, chief executive of Blackpool Citizens’ Advice Bureau, said the process was too complex, meaning genuine hardship for some of the most vulnerable people in society.
She said: “We are finding more and more people are coming to us with PIP forms. They are very complex. And a lot more are coming to us for help with the appeals process.

“We have an 80 per cent success rate when helping with appeal, which just goes to show that the process is not right. These claims should have been got right in the first place. It is not that these people don’t really have problems which need the PIP support, it is just that they are not able to communicate that.”

DWP – PIP is a much better benefit

 A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said more than a quarter of PIP claimants received the highest rate of support, compared to 15 per cent under DLA.
“We are committed to supporting people with disabilities and health conditions, which is why we introduced PIP to replace the outdated DLA system,” she said.

“PIP is a better benefit which takes a much wider look at the way an individual’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis, and is tailored to suit each individual’s needs.

“The latest official research shows that 76 per cent of PIP claimants are satisfied with their overall experience.”

Despite Parkinson’s being a serious, progressive neurological illness with no known cure, he says assessors who were deciding whether he could keep his mobility car asked him when his condition would clear up. Michael has spoken out after a national survey by the Disability Benefits Consortium revealed 8 in 10 disabled people said their assessments for personal independence payments (PIPs) had made their health worse due to stress or anxiety. Half the 1,700 respondents had lost money under the benefits system shake-up and a third of those said they were struggling to pay for food, rent and bills. TV producer Michael says he relies on his mobility car to get to work at MediaCity in Salford because he cannot manage the 30-minute train and 20-minute tram journey because of his condition. Parkinson’s can affect movement and can leave him stiff and struggling to walk. MP Gordon Marsden When his wife was on maternity leave, he was reassessed from the old Disability Living Allowance to the new Personal Independent Payments and was told then he would lose his car. He said: “It was a horrific time, I can’t use public transport so I didn’t know how I was going to get to work. “As a father of two, I was worried about paying the bills and this stress had a massive impact on me.

“I have never experienced my Parkinson’s symptoms as bad as when I was going through the PIP process. “It was frightening, I felt like I had progressed 10 years with the condition. I have never experienced my Parkinson’s symptoms as bad as when I was going through the PIP process. “My employers have been really supportive but it started to affect my work and I had to reduce my hours. I was in a really dark place, I became very inward and depressed.”

Mr Gibson asked for a mandatory reconsideration so the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) would reconsider the decision, but the process took so long that his car was due to be taken away before he had even got a response.
“I had to borrow money from my dad to pay for the car outright or it would have been taken away,” he said. Figures from the Motability charity show 59,000 people have lost their eligibility for a vehicle since 2013 – 45 per cent of all those on the scheme that have been reassessed. Of these, more than 4,000 have since re-joined following a successful reconsideration or appeal. Mr Gibson said he had a “terrible” experience with his PIP assessors, adding: “At one point I was asked how long would I have Parkinson’s for, and another assessor told me that I wouldn’t be eligible before she’d even started the assessment. “Assessors are determining people’s futures with very little or no knowledge of the conditions people are living with.

Source: http://www.chorley-guardian.co.uk/news/health/punished-for-being-ill-benefit-changes-made-my-illness-much-worse-1-8752619

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