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Massive Rise In Disability Assessment Complaints

Massive Rise In Disability Assessment Complaints

There has been an increase by more than 6,000% in complaints over assessments for disability benefits, shock new Government figures reveal, with a woman from Sheffield among those who have been forced to take action after cuts.

A report in The Independent newspaper shows that 9,320 complaints were received about medical assessments for Personal Independent Payment (PIP) in the year to February 2019 – compared with 1,391 in 2016-17 and just 142 in 2015-16. This marks a surge of 570 per cent in two years and 6,463 per cent in three years, and although the overall number of PIP claims has risen by 67 per cent since 2016, campaigners say these figures show that the process is “completely inadequate.’

One claimant, 38-year-old Jennifer Jones (pictured) had her benefits downgraded despite having ME, fibromyalgia and rapid cycling bipolar disorder. She had received the highest Disability Living Allowance daily living for seven years but when reassessed for PIP was put on the lowest level, which meant she couldn’t afford to fund transport, as her mental health and chronic pain often restrict her from using public transport and she relies on using taxis for medical appointments and shopping.

Jennifer, a member of Sheffield DPAC the local branch of campaigning organisation Disabled People Against Cuts, appealed and had a mandatory reconsideration reject the restoration of the original level of benefits, so with support from Citizens Advice Sheffield and her GP she escalated the appeal. A week before a tribunal was to take place Jennifer was contacted by a DWP case manager who offered to restore her payment to their original levels.

However she added that she knew of other disabled people who did not have the resilience to fight back against such decisions adding: “I’m convinced that this tactic of refusing mandatory reconsiderations is because they know that a lot of us can’t cope with the stress of going to a court tribunal and that a lot of people will say I just can’t do it, I can’t cope with this any more. It has broken my heart that so many people have taken their own lives, and have died while awaiting decisions. I have lost two friends to this punitive system in the last 18 months. One death is too many.”

The figures were also slammed by mainstream disability charities, including Scope and the MS Society.

Ian Lavery, the Labour MP who obtained the figures through a parliamentary question, said the current benefits system was “driving people into destitution”. However, a Department Of Work And Pensions spokesperson said: “We want the PIP assessment process to work well for everyone and have made significant improvements, including testing the video recording of assessments. This year complaints represented less than 1 per cent of all PIP assessments.”

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