The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has responded to a petition by essentially dismissing it. The petition is about the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for disabled people. The DWP’s response shows it’s ignoring serious concerns over the social security payment, which the petition describes as “inhumane” and “not fit for purpose”.
PIP: years of DWP chaos
PIP is a social security for chronically ill, sick and disabled people. It’s supposed to help with their extra costs if they live with illnesses or impairments. However, PIP has been dogged by controversy. From stealth real-terms cuts to huge rates of successful appeals, the benefit is a shambles. Also, between April 2013 and 30 April 2018 around 12 people a day died waiting for the DWP’s decision on their PIP.
Then there’s the DWP’s assessment process for PIP. It has been unfit for purpose for years. Independent Assessment Services (IAS), formally ATOS, does PIP health assessments for the DWP. However, this area of the benefit has been a mess, too – official probes have shown “dishonest” assessments and high rates of appeal wins.
The DWP’s management of PIP has been such a disaster that it prompted the UN to say PIP had effectively reduced the number of people who should have been entitled to health-related benefits, negatively impacting on people’s living standards. So, recently, someone launched a parliamentary petition calling for the DWP to reform PIP. And now, the department has responded.
A “full review”
Keely Santos set up the petition. It says:
We want the government to conduct a full review of the PIP process. This should look at DWP policy and the performance of ATOS and Capita, which conduct the health assessments for applicants… the current process is inherently unethical and biased, and needs a complete overhaul.
We believe that the Personal Independence Payment application and assessment process is inhumane and degrading. We believe Capita and ATOS are not fit for purpose to be contracted as independent assessors, and that this leads to many people being unfairly denied benefits.
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Santos also noted the high rate of overturned DWP PIP decisions. As of September 2022, 71% of appeals were successful. In the space of a year, there was also a 111% increase in the number of PIP claimants making appeals in the first please. As Santos noted in the petition:
This demonstrates that many decisions are initially incorrect. We believe that too often medical evidence is ignored, and decisions are not made fairly.
The DWP originally responded to the petition on 28 September. However, parliament’s petitions committee said that the department needed to “more directly [address] the request of the petition”. So, on 1 November, the DWP gave its revised response. And it was unsurprisingly obtuse.
Predictable DWP obtuseness
The department gave a long statement which essentially said very little. It repeated nonsense claims about satisfaction rates with assessment providers. The DWP said it had also “already delivered a number of improvements”. It talked about the assessment process and claimed that, in terms of appeals:
we have introduced a new approach to decision making, both the initial decision and the Mandatory Reconsideration stage, giving Decision Makers additional time to proactively contact claimants where they think additional evidence may support a claim.
The new approach to decision making has resulted in a greater proportion of decisions being changed at Mandatory Reconsideration, which in turn has contributed to a reduction in the proportion of decisions resulting in an appeal… Only 7% of initial decisions made in 2020-21 have seen an appeal lodged against them, compared to 9% in 2019-20, and 10% in the three years previous.
But this will mean nothing to the countless claimants the DWP has violated through its PIP processes. Just recently, it emerged that in three months the DWP stopped over 2,000 people’s PIP claims in Greater Manchester alone – because these people had been in hospital for more than 28 days.
PIP is not, and never has been, fit for purpose. The DWP’s response to the petition shows its approach is to stick its fingers in its ears and ignore the serious concerns of chronically ill, sick and disabled people. So, if the petition has any chance of making a difference, it needs to reach the 100,000 signatures required to prompt a potential parliamentary debate. You can sign it here.
Featured image via the Canary and Wikimedia
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