People with Disabilities: Access to Services - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 1:22 pm ar 16 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Thomas of Winchester Baroness Thomas of Winchester Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol 1:22, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I welcome this debate and declare that I receive DLA.

The Government have made no secret about wanting to cut the benefit PIP—personal independence payment—which is paid to disabled people of working age, in work or out of work, who qualify, saying that it is now unsustainable. Last month, they published a Green Paper, with a consultation period of three months, but said that any change could not be attempted before a general election.

I have always been concerned that the PIP assessment does not officially involve any healthcare professionals because it has been characterised as a functionality test only, not a medical test. The assessment process has been outsourced, and claimants are often turned down initially for eligibility for PIP, even if they have a condition such as muscular dystrophy. The next stage is for the claimant to ask for mandatory reconsideration, but all too often the original decision is rubber-stamped. Finally, a claimant can ask for a tribunal to examine their claim. Tribunals very often overturn the initial decision, probably because the tribunal consists of a lawyer, a doctor and a disability specialist. The whole appeals process in itself is long-winded and stressful for a disabled person to go through, let alone being very expensive for the Government.

I think the time has come for a report from a healthcare professional to be mandatory, perhaps at the very latest at the first appeal stage, which is reconsideration by the DWP. I am told that problems with PIP assessments are the number one issue on MDUK’s helpline, particularly the change in the walking test from 50 metres to 20 metres. In general, more PIP claimants than ever have psychiatric disorders, so having a report from a healthcare professional would surely be welcome. Even better, of course, would be faster treatment for mental health problems.