#AceNewsReport – Mar.30: This is another example of governments using ‘ Third Parties ‘ under Contract to provide services and designing the agreement in favour of PROFIT and allowing the government to AVOID a Negligence Claims by ‘ Passing the Buck ‘ The independent report blasts the “confusing” and “stressful” assessments used by thousands of people to get Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
MirrorOnline reports that a damning review for the government slams ‘erosion of trust’ in cruel disability benefit tests
Soaring appeal rates are “clearly eroding trust” in the Tories’ cruel disability benefit tests, a damning review for the government has found.
The independent report blasts the “confusing” and “stressful” assessments used by thousands of people to get Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
PIP, which helps with living costs, launched in 2013 to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – but a fifth of people leaving DLA are denied the new benefit.
A record 27,706 PIP appeal tribunals were lodged in the last three months of 2016, and 65% won their case against the government.
The review says this is “clearly eroding the trust of claimants and stakeholders in the system”.
And it warns tribunal judges have doubts about whether the government’s checks on its own decisions are up to scratch.
Today’s 98-page review by benefits watchdog Paul Gray was commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and took nine months.
The review took nine months and heard from more than 1,700 people
Key findings include:
Claimants are “confused” about what evidence they are supposed to give the DWP because of “insufficient guidance”
Evidence from carers, family members and friends is “wrongly” not given enough weight
- PIP tests are outsourced to giants Capita and Atos at a cost of £500m – yet each firm has a different method, meaning tests aren’t consistent
Some tests had “insufficient evidence” to decide if people should be denied PIP – yet passed an audit anyway
Mr Gray, chairman of the government’s Social Security Advisory Committee, said: “Public Trust ” in the fairness and consistency of PIP decisions is not currently being achieved, with high levels of disputed award decisions, many of them overturned at appeal.
“My findings point to the need to build very considerably on current action to improve the way PIP is administered.”
The review was ordered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) 9 months ago
Rob Holland of Mencap said: “Disabled people are rightly losing faith in a system that has seen many lose out on the support they rely on”.
Scope policy chief James Taylor added: “A complete overhaul of the assessment is clearly needed.”
The MS Society said the review was welcome but “lacks important details” on how tests will be made fairer.
The 1,700 contributions to the review were “dominated” by fears over the “complex and often stressful nature of the claims process”, Mr Gray said.
People accused the DWP’s “mandatory reconsideration” system, which claimants are forced to use before they can appeal, of being a “rubber stamp” that acts as a “barrier” to justice.
One disabled person said: “Further evidence was completely ignored. They made their reconsideration without even looking at the evidence.”
Another said: “Had to wait 12 months for an appeal date. The affect the whole process had on my mental health was a dramatic worsening of it. It is a horrible system to navigate when you are so weak mentally”.
The report said even tribunal judges are “sceptical about the thoroughness” of Mandatory Reconsiderations, which overturn just 17% of cases.
And advice groups admitted they are having to “ration their support” because there are more cases than they can deal with.
Mr Gray’s investigators found Capita and Atos each have a different system for tests.
Capita assessors have the details several days before a test – while Atos workers only get them on the day, meaning some struggle to “read all the evidence“.
Atos and Capita make millions in fees overseen by Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green – but they each use different methods to assess people
Atos write up tests straight away, but Capita leave them to the end of the day – which could make reports “less reliable“, the review said.
Mr Gray recommended people denied benefits should be given their assessment on paper, with an audio recording, so they have the full facts when they appeal.
Assessors should be allowed to see information people have already given to the DWP to claim other benefits, he added.
Mr Gray warned progress on introducing digital forms had been too slow and he called for “further research” on how well PIP works.
Mr Gray said despite all the issues, spending on disability benefits has “risen significantly” even though PIP was part of a plan to cut £11.8bn.
Labour’s Debbie Abrahams said the report was “scathing”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said the “scathing” report was “very worrying” – and came after ministers blocked plans to raise the benefit for 165,000 people.
She said: “The government must now take speedy and effective action to overhaul the PIP assessment process, including revoking the emergency PIP regulations discriminating against people with mental health conditions, reviewing the contracts of private assessment providers and ensuring a ‘get it right first time’ approach.”
Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney said: ”This report is damning. It shows that the government are betraying the most vulnerable in our society. Running through this report like a stick of rock is the the lack of trust.”
Parkinson’s UK campaigns chief Laura Cockram said: “It’s absolutely crucial that the DWP looks again at the broken PIP assessment to ensure people with long term conditions get the support they so desperately need, rather than rigging the system against them.”
Disabilities minister Penny Mordaunt said she was “grateful” for Mr Gray’s review.
She added: “His independent work is an important part of making sure our processes are working in the best way possible and we will respond to the recommendations in due course.”
‘Nasty’ changes to #PIP disability benefit……
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