The hon. Gentleman is correct. For people waiting, it may as well be never. The Courts and Tribunals Service tells me that on Merseyside the average waiting time for an appeal is 38 to 42 weeks—10 months.
I have a constituent whose mother came to me in despair for help. She is a young woman of 29 years but has serious and worsening immune conditions, which are baffling her doctors and causing her health to deteriorate. She has so many conditions, and I will not go through them all, but she can hardly walk at the best of times and sometimes is in a much worse state. She often has to visit four different hospitals, sometimes with two or three appointments a week, and has been using a Motability car to do so. However, she does not have her Motability car any more because it has been taken away. She had a lifetime award of higher rate mobility under DLA, but when she was migrated to PIP, she was only awarded the lower rate. She appealed for a tribunal hearing last May and is yet to receive a date for it. She was recently told that she is likely to have to wait another six months, but my office is trying to get that hearing expedited.
The young women’s mother came to see me because the car had to be returned and the first trip to hospital without it cost the family £17.50 one way. Her parents are low-paid workers and cannot afford to make such payments. The family were considering having to choose which hospital appointments to go to, which is a shocking situation. Fortunately, the Mayor of Liverpool has a hardship fund. I have referred her to that, which is now paying for the family’s taxi trips, but she should not have to rely on that kind of assistance when she is entitled to the payments; I have no doubt that she will get her car back when she finally gets an appeal heard.
I want to raise another benefits issue affecting disabled young people who have special educational needs. It is about a difference between the rules for ESA and the rules for universal credit that seriously affects a small number of young people with special educational needs. My constituent Antony Hamilton has autism and developmental co-ordination disorder. He is in receipt of PIP and has an education, health and care plan, which required him to complete two years of specialist post-16 education provision before going on to do A-levels. As a consequence, he is a bit older than the typical A-level student, and he turned 20 at the beginning of the second year of his A-level course last October. The child tax credits and child benefit his father received for him ended at that time, but he still had most of a year of full-time education to go.
Under the legacy working-age benefits, Antony could have applied for non-contributory ESA to cover the financial loss, which is £170 a week. Under universal credit, however, there is no such option. He has been told he would have to apply for universal credit, undergo a work capability assessment and be required to work or search for it, which is something he cannot do because he is in full-time education. It is Catch-22 for people like Antony. He is working hard to achieve in educational terms, but his parents are having to spend their small savings to help him to be able to finish his A-levels. The letter his father got from the DWP said:
Will the Minister please enlighten us about who is setting this policy, and about what he is going to do to help Antony?