• Government response to damning inquiry into disability benefit system ‘falls short’, say MPs

    The government’s response to a damning inquiry into the disability benefit system “falls short”, MPs have said, after it refused to accept a number of recommendations designed to restore trust in the assessment process.

    A report by the Work and Pensions Committee published in February found failings in the process for assessing personal independence payment (PIP) and employment support allowance (ESA) claims had contributed to a “pervasive lack of trust” in the system with “untenable human costs” to claimants, as well as financial costs to the public purse.

    It revealed that all three private firms contracted to assess people for disability benefits were failing to meet the government’s own quality standards, and concluded that the process was in need of “urgent change”.

    In its response, the government said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would improve the recording of assessments and the design of application forms to make it easier for claimants – two recommendations that were made by the committee.

    But ministers rejected both the suggestion that claimants should receive their assessment reports without having to ask, and the recommendation that the DWP should conduct an audit of arrangements for home visits, including reasons for refusal.

    Responding to the government’s response to the inquiry, Frank Field, chair of the committee, said the decision to record PIP assessments as standard was a “tremendous step forward” and would “go a long way” to restoring trust. But the Labour MP added that the response “fell short” in certain areas.

    “A commitment to improving the gruelling application forms is also very welcome, and clearly the government has listened to the thousands of claimants who contributed to our work,” he said.

    “But the response falls short in several areas. For example, we think claimants should always receive their assessment reports without having to ask, and we are concerned that the government lacks the levers to get value for money out of its private contractors.

    “This response marks the start of another stage in our work on PIP and ESA – we will use House of Commons debates to push the government to go further in support of disabled people.”

    Margaret Greenwood, the shadow work and pensions secretary, accused the government of “failing sick and disabled people”, saying the response “fell far short of the urgent action needed to end the unnecessary stress and anxiety being inflicted through the assessment processes”.

    She continued: “Under private contractors these processes are getting worse, not better, often damaging the health and wellbeing of the very people who need support.

    “The government should scrap the current assessment regime, put an end to the privatisation and work to deliver a social security system in which people can have confidence.”

    Philip Connolly, policy manager at Disability Rights UK, said he welcomed the government’s commitment to recording PIP assessments, but added that confidence in the assessment process for disability benefits was “scant and threadbare”.

    He continued: “We were very sorry to see the government refuse the recommendation that all claimants should be sent a copy of their assessment report as a matter of course. This would be a huge step forward in helping disabled people understand what is being said about them, and why, in relation to benefit claims.

    “Overall, the current assessment providers offer poor value for money for the taxpayer and we urge the government to consider very seriously the option of returning the assessment process in house, given the contracts are up for review.

    “But we have to remember that PIP and ESA are not well designed benefits, and fail to meet the needs of many disabled people. Changes to the assessment process for the better are welcome, but there are wider issues which need to be addressed.”

    Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, meanwhile said: “We’re disappointed the government hasn’t fully taken on board the practical steps that could have radically improved the way disability benefits are assessed.

    “Some actions, like recording assessments, are a start but a lot more needs to be done before we see a welfare system that makes sense.

    “We’re particularly concerned the government won’t make improvements around how healthcare professionals can consistently provide evidence. Without this, assessors don’t have enough knowledge about MS and this is causing many people to be denied what they are rightly entitled to.”

    It comes after figures published at the end of last year revealed that the government’s new benefit system was wrongly denying disabled people financial support at a higher rate than ever.

    Decisions by the DWP not to award PIP were being overturned at 68 per cent of appeal hearings, the data showed, with 14,188 cases found in favour of the claimant between July and September this year.

    Successful appeals brought against the DWP over ESA had also soared, with the proportion of cases found in favour of the claimant at 67 per cent in the last quarter, compared with 62 per cent in the same period last year and 58 per cent the year before.

    A DWP spokesperson said: “As the Committee highlights, assessments work well for the vast majority of people. But one person’s poor experience is one too many, and we’re committed to continuously improving the process for people so that they get the support they need.

    “We’ll continue to take forward our actions to improve assessments, with an emphasis on promoting transparency and ensuring people get the right decision, first time round.

    Read the full article online: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/disability-benefits-uk-government-inquiry-cuts-welfare-state-mps-a8316746.html

    Roisin Norris

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    • christopher hollins

      so , if an mp on the front benches , cannot do the best that their position requires, , they must not face the consequences of their actions . but managers and workers , who fail to do their duty in the real world would face dismissal , or be put on notice , told to improve .


      I have just got over having my ESA assessment and had weeks of severe stress, in the ESA was granted and trying to get back to my norm, and dealing with my severe medical conditions. But now have my DLA TO PIP assessment and just want to end my life it’s turned in a horrible system which has turned out to be totally unfair and unjust, the stress levels and everything else the PIP papers are 40 pages and just cannot face it my carer is doing most of it but my mental health state has just got worse and worse and to do a face to face again is another task i feel I cannot handle i just don’t want to be here anymore.

    • Pam L Quick

      it’s such a shame that people with disability have to work 10 times harder than those who don’t have disability. Why should it be the written word? There are people who don’t use English such as Deaf who use British Sign Language, so to get them to fill in a form, means that they have to pay someone from their PIP or DLA to assist them. What is this world coming to. We have computers so why not allow people to record their needs and then get people to assess them. However on the other hand there are people who will try and get it when they don’t deserve it, by borrowing a wheelchair to go to the meeting. Then a few days after they have received their PIP they are videoed dancing at an evening out. Where is the justice? how do we who struggle enough compete against those who persistently lie?

      • waylaid

        Fraudulent applications for ESA, PIP, and the legacy sickness/disability benefits are 0.8% of the total benefits bill. The benefits are a pittance, the application process is grueling, and the assessors/Case Managers appear to assume that every single claimant is a faker.

        Also, there are such things as disabilities which are variable, you know.

        • Pam L Quick

          Yes I do know but I also have seen fakers get it when they shouldn’t. So where is the justice in that

          • waylaid

            Uh huh. And you know everything about their health conditions?

            • Pam L Quick

              Enough to know that this person borrowed a wheelchair, to go to a PIP, who doesn’t need one. Shame on the person who lent it when they also knew she didn’t need one

            • waylaid

              Huh. OK, I admit that looks bad.

            • Spencer Johnson

              Shame on me then Pam.
              When I was an actie fraudster, the wheelchair was one of the many tools I used.
              I even had a name for it,”Old Faithful” I called her that because she never let me down once.
              And the frightening thing about it was that none of the many claimants I pushed in to their WCA test had no prior medical history of not being able to walk.
              And guess what? They were all awarded enhanced rate PIP.
              The WCA doesn’t work and never has and this Government knows it. Yet they sit back and watch as it claims more amd more lives of some of the most vulnerable i our communitis

            • waylaid

              Most people who use wheelchairs can walk. Clearly you have no idea what you’re talking about.

            • Spencer Johnson

              lets agree to disagree?

            • Spencer Johnson

              I don’t know f Pam does but I know that I have mmuch more knowledge than you when it comes to fraudulent claims.
              It is my professional opinion that around 80% of all claims are fraudulent and this is one of the reasons why it takes months and in some cases years for people with complex mental health issues to be seen and treated

            • waylaid

              Again, ridiculous.

          • Spencer Johnson

            I couldn’t agree with you more Pam.
            The WCA actually favours the fraudster whilst it actively targets the sick and disabled

        • Spencer Johnson

          The real cost f benefit fraud is running closer to £30 billion a year. It also cost the NHS a further £10 billion a year.
          As well as all of the above, it is directly responsible fr the premature deaths of thousands of claimants every year. Along wth the deaths that the WCA have been directly implicated in.

          You sent me a request to see first hand just how easy it is for someone like me to put a fraudulent person on the sick with bogus mental health issues?
          I am based in the North West but I would travel to prove the point.
          If I come to you then you would have to supply the fraudulent claimant?

          • waylaid

            The disability (PIP and DLA) and sickness (ESA) benefits cost the government 45 billion a year (as of 2018). You’re telling me that 67% of that is fraud? Ridiculous.
            And why exactly would fraud cost the NHS 10 billion?
            I suspect that you’re a DWP plant, or perhaps a government shill.

            However, just to be certain – I don’t want to be party to any fraud in the benefits system. I was just going to pretend to be an assessor and have you answer the questions.

            • Spencer Johnson

              once again, lets agree to disagree?

    • David Dodd

      Recording all PIP and ESA interviews has been described by Frank Field as a tremendous step forward.
      He couldn’t be further from the truth.
      I have attended many hundreds of assessments over the years and yes, I am ashamed to say that a great many of them had been fraudulent cases.
      To the naked eye there may have appeared nothing wrong with these people and that was because there wasn’t anything wrong.
      I was there to make sure that they answered the questions correctly and that was all it took.
      It did’t matter if the answer was an honest one, the assessors never checked up.
      Word of my successes with the WCA quickly spread and it wasn’t long before I had genuine sick and disabled people coming to me for help having been kicked off their benefits.
      It took only a couple of minutes for me to realise what had happened but those poor people still couldn’t figure it out for themselves.
      With the WCA, there is no grey. Only black and white.
      What I discovered from all the genuine claimants was that they would answer the questions in the grey area. These answers would be down graded to white and the claimant woud be kicked off the benefit.
      In a nutshell, the genuine claimants were and still are too honest for their own good when answering these questions.

      • waylaid

        You know that most disabilities are invisible, right?

        • David Dodd

          Please trust me when I tell you the “Mental Health Issues” are the easiest and quickest ways that fraudsters use to defraud the Welfare State. Of course there are genuine people that are seriously ill with mental health problems but I would bet my life that around 80% of all those claiming long term sickness benefits for mental health issues are doing so fraudulently. If you don’t believe me then I would be hapy to show you in person.
          If you are a Disability specialist, Researcher or whatever your interest. I will be happy to show you just how quick and easy it is.
          And it was for that reson that most people used it when migrating from Incapacity to ESA. And certainly why the majority of new claimants fror ESA used it. Please believe me when I tell you that I am no Tory right wing fascist who blames all the troubles of the World on the sick and disabled.
          I am a benefit fraudstr that has lived and breathed this shit for over 25 years. I have seen first hand what damage this is doing and it needs to be stopped
          David Dodd

          • Pam L Quick

            Well said

          • waylaid

            You know, you have no idea what’s going on inside the heads of other people. I myself claim for mental health issues, as do several other people I know (we met in NHS secondary mental health care – huh). Be assured, we’re all legitimate.

            • David Dodd

              I am trying to respond to Waylaid but I can’t get in?

              David Dodd

            • Spencer Johnson

              I fully understand and truly believe that there are very many genuine claimants that do need help.
              One of the biggest problems that they face is getting the attention they need when they need it and this is becuse 80% of all claimants are fraudsters

          • waylaid

            OK, I would like to see that in person, actually, just out of curiosity. I’m in the SE. Where are you?

            • Spencer Johnson

              I’m in the North West.
              I would travel if I had to in order to open your eyes. But if I come to you then you would have to provide the fraudulent claimant?

      • Pam L Quick

        Totally agree. As a disabled person I am proud of the little independence that I have. Where is the dignity in being made to feel that you have to show every bad part of your life

        • waylaid