With own experience, the outrage on social media and now an article in the press; I wonder if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and ATOS have changed the goalposts for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
There seems to be just so many different claims of payments being rejected either in part or in full. Many then successfully appealed, for some of the strangest reasons.
‘Your Not Disabled, You Can Walk On Your Hands’
So the article that has me thinking about this today is from The Independent;
Julius Holgate, from Hackney, north London, fell into debt and resorted to selling his jewellery and other belongings to survive after he received zero points during his Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) assessment in January.
The DWP said Julius was able to climb stairs using his arms and therefore had “mobility” so he could work. Source
This gentleman is a double-amputee affected by a “clerical error” at the Department for Work and Pensions and through a generic tick-list of tasks based on evidence that is provided by sub-contractor ATOS.
This is an easy Government get out, it was the contractors fault and they are not directly responsible, yadda, yadda.
Has the Criteria Changed?
Back in the days of the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition, there was a Government policy paper on welfare reforms.
Some of the elements of this are still in development. Universal Credit is in trial stages and infancy, while the introduction of caps on the amount of benefit that can be received continues to be adjusted. The section that is relevant to this discussion though is:
PIP helps towards some of the extra costs because of a long term ill-health condition or disability. It’s based on how a person’s condition affects them, not the condition they have. Source
The Disability Living Allowance that it replaces was more aligned to being a benefit meeting the additional costs arising from disability. Notice that there is a very subtle wording difference in that the new benefit only commits to helping with ‘some costs.’
Certainly if you consider yourself unable to cope with work, you don’t (and we don’t) apply for the Employment and Support Allowance. We are lucky that with my wages and what was my wife’s DLA we can make ends meet, albeit with a lot of cost cutting. ESA and fitness to work assessments are apparently just as bad and visual impairment and nystagmous is still
How Can This Be Interpreted?
I think this interpretation is important. If you spend out on adaptations to your home for a disability; it seems that this means that you will no longer need any money to help you. I wonder whether this really basic and flawed theory is what is now pushing eligibility.
For Mr Holgate, this may be the clerical error that led to his initial refusal; he stated he could make it up the stairs using his hands so it was deemed that he needs no further help. It appears that someone has seen sense.
I was thinking how that would affect our family life. We have had the Daily Living component of DLA rejected for a PIP claim, despite the report seemingly talking about a completely different claim at times.
Our report stated that no assistance was needed for preparing a simple meal because we have a mandolin for preparing ingredients and magnification to read instruction on packets. The facts pointed out that even then most use by dates and many instructions are still too small was ignored, similarly the statement that in a large number of cases, to keep a varied and healthy diet, I prepare many meals for my family before I go out to work.
It does not seem to occur to ATOS that buying and continually using a slow cooker, because that can be the easiest way to cook a simple meal, means it has to be replaced more often. Nor do they realise just how specific microwave or oven has to be to cater for someone who s all but blind.
It also does not seem to occur to the DWP that being able to use a timer does not mean that the chicken breast will be cooked through, when it has been in the oven.
This is not something new, you can see in social media the number of claimants that have bizarre refusals;
— cocoandghosty3 (@cocoandghosty3h) June 15, 2017
My son has no eyes autistic non verbal and DLA for life now turned 16 forced to go threw PIP Is that not disabled enough @RuthDavidsonMSP
— Colette Walker (@ColetteWalker12) May 27, 2017
The Government Has Made PIP a Shambles
It has off-costed third party contractors into a role where they have no accountability but make hundreds of millions of pounds of decisions a year. It then appears to have forgotten a core of why the Personal Independence Payment is there, to help disabled people adjust to being an included part of the community.
The vast majority of PIP claimants don’t want to profit from their disability; just don’t want to fall deep in debt trying to cope with it.