Personal Independence Payment Applications

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:19 pm on 17th June 2015.

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Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Labour, Bridgend 5:19 pm, 17th June 2015

I will be as quick as I can, Mr Davies.

I declare an interest as the past chair of the all-party parliamentary group on motor neurone disease and vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Parkinson’s in the previous Parliament. I also declare an interest because my late husband, who died recently of motor neurone disease—a condition called Pick’s disease—was in receipt of personal independence payment.

I do not think we can stress enough how PIP provides a financial lifeline for people with conditions such as Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease, which both bring increased costs to daily living, whether relating to the need for constant heating; additional laundry costs; the equipment that people need to buy; the aids and adaptation to make their home liveable in; the food wasted as they try to find food they can eat and swallow; the transport costs related to keeping a normal life, getting people out of the home and accessing daily living; and the change in clothing as weight changes. Those are just a few of the huge costs that people face—never mind the stress and anxiety that hon. Members mentioned—that make it essential to get the processing of the change to PIP right. Those changes create anxiety every day, not just for the sufferer, but for their carers, who carry on caring while being denied access to carer’s allowance because the PIP process has not been completed.

If a visual assessment is being made, the outward signs can vary, depending on the progress of the condition: in the early stages, it can include simply slowness and stiffness when moving; breathing and walking difficulties; incontinence; and loss or slurring of speech. The less physical signs are pain, depression, anxiety and memory loss, all of which are exacerbated when the process goes slowly. I remind hon. Members that those diagnosed with some conditions of motor neurone disease can be dead within one year, so people can die before accessing the benefit if there is a delay in the process.

I stress the importance of paper-based assessments for people with such long-term conditions for which there is no relief, from which there is no going back and which mean a death sentence. It is nonsense that people are still being called in for face-to-face assessments. It is also nonsense that people are being assessed in places across the other side of a town, or a country area, that are difficult to access when people get to them, with, for example, long distances to walk or steps to climb. When they get to the assessment in such a place, having suffered the pain, anxiety and difficulty of getting there, they are told, “Well, you’re obviously well enough, because you’ve managed to get here.” It is nonsense. Will the Minister commission a detailed review of delays and problems with PIP, ahead of the independent review that is due in 2016?

Lord Freud said in the other place that the Government have speeded up the PIP process by giving paper assessments for those with incurable and progressive conditions. We all welcome that, but the evidence shows it is not happening. Will the Minister please make an assessment, with providers, and ensure that they adhere to the policy and report back to the House on progress?