An enquiry by investigative journalism platform the Ferret has revealed that Scottish disability claimants are seriously losing out due to DWP reforms, to the sum of £56.4m a year.
A rocky transition
The Ferret sent a freedom of information request to the DWP. It asked:
how many people resident in Scotland who previously qualified for Disability Living Allowance have not been given a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) following medical assessments.
The DWP has been phasing out Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to be replaced by PIP since 2013. People who were claiming DLA have to apply for PIP instead.
However, the Ferret’s investigation has revealed that this has not been a smooth changeover for many claimants in Scotland. The DWP stated that, up to 31 October 2017, it had completed 97,560 assessments of previous DLA claimants. But assessors did not award 16,970 of these people PIP. The Ferret estimates that this amounts to an annual overall loss of £56.4m annually, with Scotland’s poorest communities hit hardest.
A money saver
In response to the Ferret’s findings, the DWP issued the following statement:
We are committed to ensuring that disabled people get the support they’re entitled to. Decisions for PIP are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant and their GP or medical specialist, and anyone who is unhappy with their decision can appeal.
However, there has been a backlash from disability groups and politicians alike. Iain Smith, from the disabled people’s organisation Inclusion Scotland, said the findings confirm that the advent of PIP was:
always about cutting the benefits bill and not about providing disabled people with the support the need for independent living.
And Paul Sweeney, Labour MP for Glasgow North East, stated:
The potential annual total of £1.9m in social security payments being denied to my constituents every year is the difference between being able to live in dignity and facing destitution. This is the appalling reality of what the Tories have done in creating a hostile environment for those in our communities who are most in need of help.
In April 2018, the Scottish parliament voted unanimously to establish a new devolved Scottish social security system. For SNP MSP Ruth Maguire, the change can’t come soon enough:
Only with full powers over social security can Scotland treat all those in need of support with the respect they deserve, not the cruelty they face under a toxic Tory government.
Not the first time
This is far from the first time PIP payments, or the lack thereof, have come under the spotlight.
In December 2017, a high court ruled that DWP changes to the criteria required to receive PIP were unfair to people with mental health conditions. Indeed, these were so unfair that it deemed they breached the claimants’ human rights. The government was forced into a review and “expects up to 220,000 people to get more help as a result”. However, they will still have to wait until the end of the summer for the payment.
The DWP’s allocation of the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) benefit has also led to similar accusations. A Guardian report found that:
So far in 2017-18, 68% of 35,452 ESA appeals have gone in favour of the claimant.
And Universal Credit hasn’t got off scot-free either. As The Canary previously reported, 83% of Universal Credit sanction decisions are overturned on appeal.
The Ferret‘s findings demonstrate the effect of the DWP’s commitment to saving money over claimants’ best interests.
A shift in priorities is way overdue.
– Support Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the Mental Health Resistance Network, fighting for disabled people’s rights.
Featured image via UK government – Wikimedia