Action call for cash for disabled people

Almost 2,000 disabled people in Northumberland have taken the Government to tribunal over benefit payments and nearly half won, figures show.

By Joanna Morris
Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 11:52 am
Hundreds in Northumberland challenge disability payment awards
Hundreds in Northumberland challenge disability payment awards

Disability charities say that the latest data proves the Government’s assessment process is not fit for purpose, with Scope calling for a "radical rehaul" of the system.

Between April 2013 and the end of 2020, the Department of Work and Pensions assessed 23,420 applications for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) from people in the area – with 71% resulting in an award being granted.

If the applicant is unhappy with the outcome, applicants can appeal and, in Northumberland, around one in five decisions were changed.

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Since 2013, 1,970 people have taken their cases further and challenged the DWP at a tribunal – with an independent panel overturning the Government's decision in 780 (49%) of cases.

The benefit – which is not means tested – covers the additional expenses faced by those with disabilities and is worth between £23 and £150 a week, depending on an individual's needs.

Louise Rubin from Scope described PIP as a vital financial lifeline but said the assessment process was fundamentally flawed.

She added: “Disabled people have told us about specific failures in their PIP assessment, such as their views and experiences not being listened to, information recorded inaccurately, advice and views of medical experts ignored and a lack of understanding, empathy or compassion from staff.

“If the DWP got more decisions right first time, fewer disabled people would go through a lengthy and stressful appeal process to get the vital support they need.”

Michael Paul from Disability Rights UK said a great many applicants do not go to an appeal because they are “tired of the stressful and time-consuming bureaucracy” and fear losing any existing award.

A DWP spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring people get all the support they are entitled to and in the vast majority of cases we make the right decision, first time.

“When someone disagrees with a decision we will, where necessary, contact them to get further information so that decisions can be thoroughly reviewed and an appeal potentially avoided.”