The Government’s PIP Fiasco Goes On


FE Debate 2Even though more than 12 months have now passed since the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was rolled out by the Government to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), many people are still waiting for a decision on their claim to receive it. Given the importance of this payment, and the positive impact it can have on the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society, I can only describe the Government’s new system as utterly shambolic.

The overall delays from the time when a claim is submitted to the decision being made have simply been unacceptable. Some of my constituents have waited over a year, despite the fact that Capita, one of the outsourcing companies responsible for the assessment process; have claimed that the turnaround time should be 30 days. For the seriously ill or disabled, having to wait this long to try and secure the money you need to live your life with dignity is deeply unpleasant – and totally unacceptable.

Capita certainly aren’t the only culprits – I’ve had a huge number of constituents complain to me about the Atos assessment process, another outsourcing company whose service was deemed so inadequate that their Government contract was terminated early.

Local people are also telling me that they have been treated with contempt when it comes to the in-person assessments. My constituents have repeatedly had appointments cancelled at the last minute – usually the morning of the assessment – after they have made special arrangements to be at home or to travel to the assessment centre on a given date. And the cost of cancelled appointments has come out of their own pockets.

When it comes to chasing up their claims, people are left to try and contact a premium rate 0845 number. The extensive use of these high cost phone numbers is something I have already raised several times with the Government. In PIP cases, it leaves people out of pocket and deeply frustrated, and often with no clearer idea of when they will get a decision.

Neither the Government, nor Atos and Capita seem to have any regard for the additional stress these problems cause for people who are already living with disabilities or health issues. They also don’t seem to have accounted for the suffering of people with mental health problems trying to deal with this process – for example, the anxiety brought on when a promised call-back never comes.

Throughout the debate on welfare reform, I have heard government Ministers talk of protecting the most vulnerable and ensuring that the greatest support will be targeted at those in most need. But these PIP issues reveal a huge gap between the government’s rhetoric and the experiences of my constituents. And I am certainly not alone in thinking this – I know this issue has affected many thousands of disabled people all over the country. Indeed, today the cross-party House of Commons Public Accounts Committee published a damning report of the Government’s rollout of PIP, describing it as “nothing short of a fiasco”.

I am pressing Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions on behalf of my constituents who have suffered over the course of the past year. In fact, just today I was delighted to be contacted by a constituent who has finally been awarded the payment, and thanked my team and I for all the advice and support on the matter. I will certainly continue to do my utmost to help people in Northfield to cope with these problems. And, together with my Labour Party colleagues, I will continue to challenge the Tory-led Government to rethink their approach to welfare reform.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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