Today the government accepted almost all of a watchdog’s planned reforms to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – almost five years after the benefit launched
Shamefaced Tory ministers have promised to reform disability benefit tests after a damning review said they were not up to scratch.
Watchdog Paul Gray said soaring appeal rates were “clearly eroding trust” and claimants found the process “confusing” and “stressful”.
Today the government accepted almost all his planned reforms to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – almost five years after the benefit launched.
Changes include giving more weight to evidence from carers and family, extending quality controls and giving assessors longer to review medical evidence.
But ministers still refuse to force firms to complete assessment reports immediately, tape-record all of them or give copies of reports to claimants automatically.
And Commons Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field slammed the reform pledge saying it will do “almost nothing”.
He said even though most recommendations had been accepted on paper, there was little concrete action and most had been put off until later.
He said: “We have heard literally thousands of accounts of the stress and suffering caused by the assessment process for PIP and ESA.
“This response is a terrible missed opportunity that will provide no comfort to the claimants facing this ordeal.”
DWP committee chairman Frank Field (Image: PA)
Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive of disability charity Scope, added: “If the Government is serious about improving PIP, it needs to fix the fundamentally broken assessment.”
That means disabled people will still have to apply to find out exactly why their benefits have been stopped.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said the report showed “the process leaves individuals and their families lives in tatters”.
She called for the government to go further and scrap the existing system.
PIP pays up to £141 a week to cover extra costs of being disabled, but almost half of people who transfer over from a previous benefit have their payments cut.
Appeal victories hit a record 14,188 in the last three months – 68% of all tribunals – and outsourcers Atos and Capita have never met their target to have fewer than 3% graded ‘unacceptable’.
(Image: Daily Mirror)
The review nine months ago by Mr Gray, head of the Social Security Advisory Committee, slammed benefit assessments as inconsistent and confusing for claimants.
His 14 recommendations, 10 of which were accepted in full and the other four partially, said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should publish more evidence on whether PIP is working.
Officials have promised to simplify letters to claimants after almost a third said they did not understand how the DWP reached its decision.
They have vowed to make clear claimants, not assessors, are responsible for finding supporting evidence after just 58% said the DWP made it clear to them.
Assessors will also put more focus on a claimant’s “functional history” rather than simply a medical report after just 60% said the tests were relevant to their condition.
And officials will be told to ensure PIP, which pays people regardless of whether they have a job, is not denied to people just because they are in work.
Disabilities minister Sarah Newton said: “We’ll continue to explore how to help meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”