What assessment he has made of the effect of recent personal independence payment changes on the income of people with mental illnesses.
Recent changes to the PIP regulations clarify the original criteria used to decide how much benefit a person receives. This is not a policy change or a budget change, and it will not result in any claimants, regardless of their health conditions, seeing a reduction in the amount of PIP they have been awarded.
Former Sergeant William Bradley, who is one of my constituents, developed severe PTSD and depression while serving in the Gulf war, and he was medically discharged from the Army in 2003. He had been on the enhanced PIP rate since 2014, but it was cut to the lower rate last year. Following an appeal, it has now been removed completely. The reply from the PIP hotline was that someone with mental health issues can work, and that this is really a benefit for people with severe physical disabilities. Will the Minister meet me to discuss this awful case, or, if PIP is not the right benefit for those with mental illness, can she explain what is?
What the hon. Lady tells me has happened is truly shocking. I would be incredibly surprised if somebody who was manning that hotline said those things to the hon. Lady. I am not saying that I doubt her story, but I would like to see that and I would like to know, if possible, the exact time that that conversation took place, because that is quite wrong. I would be happy to meet the hon. Lady.
The statistics show that if someone has a mental health condition—if they have PTSD, dementia, a psychological disorder or another mental health condition —they are better served under this benefit. It is important that people know that.
The Committee is within its rights to look at the decision. It did so, and it concluded that it would not formally review that decision. We have used the urgency procedure, as it was within our rights to do, to establish certainty. We do not want there to be a long period of uncertainty around this, and we do not want to be in the position of having to take money off people. What we have done is to restore that certainty. Everyone knows where they are, and people know that there is no change and their awards will not be changing.
It was a constituent of mine whose case led to the recent tribunal ruling that clarified the eligibility criteria for PIP, and to the Government’s subsequent amendments to the regulations. She lives with multiple health problems and was supported by Sheffield Citizens Advice, which is due to publish a report later this week on the wider impact of the shift from DLA to PIP and the particular effect that it is having on the over-65s. Will the Minister agree to meet me and Citizens Advice to discuss its recommendations?
I can give my hon. Friend such an assurance. In addition to the user rep panels that we are introducing in April, we have been conducting a trial since mid-March—it will take about six weeks—looking at audio recording, which should involve about 400 claimants. That is a tool not just to guarantee quality, but to provide reassurance to the claimant.
Some of those who are eligible for PIP may well lose entitlement to the work-related activity group element come
I can give my hon. Friend such an assurance. People are open to apply to the financial channels he mentions if they need further support. We have been doing some work in the Department on social tariffs and budgeting, which will be rolled out across our Jobcentre Plus network, and all the elements of the support offer for that group are already in place.
Last week I had to deal with a constituent whose benefits had been stopped because she missed an appointment to be assessed for PIP. She missed that appointment because she was an in-patient in hospital in Aberdeen. Even after evidence of that had been exhibited to the Minister’s Department, it twice refused to reinstate her benefits because it said that it had done nothing procedurally wrong. Is the Minister content that that is how the system is supposed to work?
The right hon. Gentleman will know that that is not how the system is supposed to work. If there is a reasonable reason why someone has not attended an appointment, missing it should not count against them. I am quite happy to look at the case that he cites, but that should not be happening.