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Personal Independence Payments — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:52 pm on 10th March 2015.

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Photo of Lord Touhig Lord Touhig Labour 2:52 pm, 10th March 2015

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people are awaiting assessment for personal independence payments.

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I am pleased to update the House that the average claimant is waiting 14 weeks for an assessment. This is within the 16-week target set by the Secretary of State. In any high-volume business, we would always expect to have a significant number of cases moving through the system at any one time.

Photo of Lord Touhig Lord Touhig Labour

My Lords, anyone making an application for a PIP assessment today will have time for 16 return journeys to the moon or 35 flights around the world before they will get their assessment.

In fact, they would be back in Britain a week before their assessment was due. The timeframe announced by the Minister is simply not acceptable. However, when this was debated in the Commons in January, a number of Members of Parliament said that when they intervened the process was reduced considerably. Is the system so broken that the best way to get a short and quick interview for a PIP assessment is to involve a Member of Parliament? What does he say to his own independent reviewer, Paul Gray, who said that the delays were doing a disservice to disabled people and their families?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The backlogs that we suffered earlier have been reduced very substantially. The 14-week wait I referred to is down from 30 weeks in June 2014. We are now putting through 52,000 cases a month.

Photo of Baroness Campbell of Surbiton Baroness Campbell of Surbiton Crossbench

My Lords, PIPs are intended to assist with disability-related expenses. The disability charity Scope estimated in a recent study that these amount to an average of £550 a month. Given that the Government have reasserted their commitment to protecting the value of the state pension through the triple lock, what consideration has the Minister given to affording PIPs the same protection?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

We are maintaining our spending on disability and disability payments and services are running at £50 billion a year. Indeed, our disability payments have been moving up right the way through this Parliament in real terms.

Photo of Baroness Jenkin of Kennington Baroness Jenkin of Kennington Conservative

My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister tell us how effectively the fast-track service for terminally ill claimants is performing at the moment?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

People who are terminally ill are fast-tracked through the process and the median end-to-end clearance time is now, as of this January, seven working days compared with 11 days in January last year.

Photo of The Bishop of Leicester The Bishop of Leicester Convenor of the Lords Spiritual

My Lords, can the Minister tell us how many 16 and 17 year-olds are awaiting reassessment? What action do the Government propose to take to meet the additional needs of that group, including providing support for them through the reassessment process?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I will have to write to the right reverend Prelate on that matter. I do not have the data on 16 and 17 year-olds so I shall write to him.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Labour

My Lords, will the Minister please answer the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell? This is supposed to be not just Question Time, but questions and answers.

Photo of Lord German Lord German Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the reliability criteria used for the personal independence payment assessments —that is, whether people can undertake tasks safely, acceptably and repeatedly—are crucial for people with fluctuating conditions. In their response to the Gray review the Government say that everybody involved in assessing those criteria should have training, yet later they say that the DWP will undertake training separately from Atos and Capita, which will do their own training. Does my noble friend not think it would be much better if all three worked together on the training so that we have consistency of outcome and avoid outcomes such as the inappropriate loss of a Motability car?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

We have been working very closely with the providers to make sure that there is an identity of approach in training, right the way through the two different providers and DWP.

Photo of Baroness Sherlock Baroness Sherlock Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, the Government have taken to using a variety of unpublished statistics in relation to PIP. When my noble friend Lord Dubs asked a Question on this very subject on 15 January, the Minister answering said that the backlog was down to 107,000—but was then obliged to write and say that that was not the case at all. So can the Minister tell me something very specific? The latest published figures cover only new applications for personal independence payments, not reassessments of the kind mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. People suspect that those on disability living allowance are having much slower assessments in order to enable the Government to fast-track new claims. Can the Minister reassure the House that that is not true and also tell us what the waiting times are for DLA?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The two processes, for PIP and for DLA—or rather, for the WCA, which I imagine is what the noble Baroness meant—are separate, and separate contractors operate them. Indeed, Maximus has come in to run the WCA process. As for the figures, statistics will be released next week, on 18 March, giving the PIP clearance times and the waiting outstanding times. That statistical release has been preannounced, in accordance with the normal protocols.

Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, I express my thanks to the Minister for the excellent revision that was made of the training manual for CFS/ME. What checks are made of the assessors to ensure that they are not bringing their preconceived ideas about CFS/ME to the assessment that they make of people with that condition?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

This is an area into which we have looked very closely, helped by the noble Countess. We have an audit system for all of these tests whereby we test that they are being conducted to the quality that we require.

Photo of Baroness Hollis of Heigham Baroness Hollis of Heigham Labour

My Lords, of those people who are going from DLA to PIP, how many does the Minister expect will lose their Motability car? Will it be 50,000 or 100,000?

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My Lords, I am not in a position to give exact figures. We debated this in some detail when we went through the Bill. I can say what the award rates are at the moment. Thirty-two per cent of people have been both on the enhanced daily living allowance and on the enhanced mobility allowance, which I hope gives some direction as to where we are going with these tests.