Department for Work and Pensions

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:56 pm on 2nd July 2019.

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Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston 2:56 pm, 2nd July 2019

I thank my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour for her intervention. I do sometimes wonder what kind of country we live in when vulnerable people feel the cards are so stacked against them that it is not even worth their while to appeal. Those are the people who come to see me. I do not know what happens to the people who are so beaten down by the system that they just give up, which I feel is the unintended consequence—or possibly the intended consequence—of this policy time after time.

We know that the cost of successful PIP appeals was £27 million last year. ESA is not included in that figure, but 74% of those claims were successful, too. Let us not forget the figures I uncovered towards the end of last year, which show that the Department is not even turning up to four in five appeal hearings. We know what would happen if my constituents did not turn up to four in five appointments with the DWP: they would be sanctioned straightaway.

I also hear from parents whose children are not eligible for free school meals because their household income is just a little too high, and they are struggling to provide their children with a school lunch because they cannot afford it. Many of these families are struggling to make ends meet.

We now come across parents who are eligible for help but who are not getting it due to the complicated application process and the long waiting times. I have constituents who, in the period before the first universal credit payment is made, are desperate for support but are told that they are not eligible for free school meals. Surely we can do this better and provide eligibility for free school meals when the universal credit application is made, rather than waiting until the first payment comes through.

Briefly, on access to benefits for people at the end of life, the current special rules for terminal illness—SRTI—exclude many people with terminal illnesses. I am meeting the Minister next week to discuss this, and I hope we have a constructive conversation, but I raise it now so that people are aware of some of the difficulties and of the money and time being wasted on inappropriate and unnecessary assessments.

Only 45% of people with motor neurone disease are claiming personal independence payment under SRTI. The majority of people in that situation are still using the standard claims route, which is inappropriate for their situation. They are required to fill in a long form, attend a face-to-face assessment and then wait weeks before the benefits are received.