Personal Independence Payment Applications

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:33 pm on 17th June 2015.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Work and Pensions) (Disabled People) 5:33 pm, 17th June 2015

I am afraid I will not because I have only a very short amount of time.

We have made sure that legacy cases are a priority, but they are unique and complex. Often, the cases brought to me are not black and white. We have to recognise that everyone’s application is unique and the medical evidence is complicated. Sometimes, people choose to reschedule their appointments themselves. Sometimes, people chose to fail to attend; are in hospital, which makes face-to-face assessments difficult; or are in prison. Nevertheless, we are making it a priority to clear any legacy cases.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness is a strong voice for his constituents and he rightly highlighted the need to tackle delays. We have demonstrated that we are making good progress, but I will continue to keep a close eye on that. We are looking at rural coverage and have increased the number of assessments. Currently, the rule is that people should be within 60 minutes’ travel in a car, which most people are, or within 90 minutes by public transport. I know that there are challenges in rural constituencies, particularly in Hull. I think my hon. Friend Peter Heaton-Jones would have raised that point, and an excellent one it would have been too. People can get face-to-face assessments, they can ask for a taxi, and all travel costs are refunded, so there should be no reason not to come out.

I am conscious of the time, but I want to pick up on some of the points that Members made. I will correspond on any that I miss. My hon. Friend Geoffrey Clifton-Brown has a very proactive approach. I have visited the centre in Swindon that we share, and I am encouraged. Sue Hayman made a good point about language, and I would be happy to discuss further any areas we can improve, but it is important to remember that carer’s allowance is backdated.

In answer to Debbie Abrahams, yes, we have strictly applied service credits, and rightly so. Appointments can be rescheduled, and, if 9 o’clock in the morning is not appropriate, some centres are looking into changing their opening hours if that is what claimants want. We have done some of what was recommended in the full PIP review, and will continue to look at that. I will update Members further in due course.

In response to Nick Thomas-Symonds, assessments are evidence-based and sensitive to conditions. We will continue to learn because quality is vital. The personal experience of Mrs Moon is also vital. I attended the Motor Neurone Disease Association event yesterday, and I would be delighted to meet both it and Parkinson’s UK. I extend that invitation to the hon. Lady.

There are many points that I do not have time to address, but I will quickly say that the roll-out will match capacity and will be done in a calm and cautious manner. I welcome all feedback. The debate has been very proactive, and PIP is a real priority for me so I will keep a close eye on it.