Disability Assessment Services

Part of Leaving the Eu: Fishing – in Westminster Hall at 5:15 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Disabled People) 5:15 pm, 13th March 2019

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I congratulate Gillian Keegan on bringing forward this debate. She made some really valid points. She is absolutely right that it is up to the Government to remove of some of the barriers that disabled people face to ensure that they can live independently and participate fully in society. I welcome the move to stop assessments for personal independence payment for pensioners, but we need to go further to ensure that those who do not need reassessment do not have to continue to go through the arduous assessment process.

We heard from Members across the Chamber about the fundamental flaws in the assessment framework for disabled people. We heard about the time that many ill and disabled people have to wait for an assessment. Indeed, my hon. Friend Ruth George highlighted that in her area people have to wait up to 48 weeks before they get to an appeal. We heard countless accounts of what happens at assessments and of poor decision making. My hon. Friend Justin Madders shared his constituent’s experience of being given two days’ notice but still being recorded as a no-show, yet assessment providers can cancel at the last minute. We need to eliminate such double standards. Derek Thomas pointed out some of the poor decision making that happens after assessments and highlighted the rubber stamping of decisions at mandatory reconsideration stage. That step was put in place to ensure that we got decisions right earlier, so it is really important that that issue is picked up.

Since 2013, more than 700,000 ill and disabled people have been forced to challenge decisions at appeal following poor decision making after their assessment. Last week, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions admitted that disabled people feel “put on trial” by these assessments. By her own admission, we need not just small-scale improvements of the assessment framework, but a wholesale overhaul of the system, which has created a hostile environment for disabled people.

Every week, I hear from constituents and from disabled people across the country who have been pushed to despair as a result of the failing assessment framework. I was contacted by a lady called Susan, who has Crohn’s disease. She is on DLA and has a Motability vehicle. Following her assessment, in which she did not score any points for her mobility, she lost her car, which she described as her one bit of independence. I share her experience with the House because it is not isolated; I hear these heart-wrenching accounts all the time.

Some 72% of PIP decisions are overturned at appeal, and more than 100,000 disabled people have been wrongly deprived of PIP. We heard that more than 4,500 disabled people were wrongly denied PIP when they transferred from DLA. Most shockingly, 17,000 people died before their PIP decision was reached. In the last three months, nearly three quarters of people who appealed their work capability assessment decision were successful.

We know the system is flawed and is not working. That is why it is worrying that we are looking at combining all these assessments. We cannot combine them when we know there is bad decision making and the assessment framework is flawed, so I ask the Minister: why not listen to people like Susan, and look at conducting a wholesale review and overhaul of the system?