On 31 January, Labour’s Laura Pidcock will be holding a debate in parliament. It concerns one of the more contentious issues of government policy. And the MP for North West Durham has told The Canary that she wants the voices of the people who feel “degraded” by the system to be heard.
Personal Independence Payments
The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a welfare entitlement from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It was rolled out gradually in 2013 to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). The then-Coalition government said the change would reduce costs by 20%. But ever since, PIP has been dogged by controversy. This includes the UN saying the government must “repeal” changes made to PIP in 2017; an argument the High Court agreed with just before Christmas and one on which the DWP has now backed down.
So Pidcock has secured what’s known as a Westminster Hall debate on PIP, with evidence from people affected by the benefit. It will focus on claimants; Pidcock has received dozens of responses to a request for evidence. She told The Canary:
In my constituency, North West Durham, the highest volume of casework I receive by far is with issues associated with PIP. Constituents contact me on a range of difficulties: the long drawn-out process of claiming the benefit, including filling in paperwork, attending assessments, challenging decisions and making appeals.
Dogged by controversy
Pidcock also noted that many people living with mental health issues find the PIP process difficult:
I have found that people with mental health problems often find the process most challenging, due to the way the assessment is focused on physical conditions, albeit still not comprehensively. This has led to constituents contacting me who are in severe distress and some suicidal.
And scandals have dogged the process. These include:
- 189,960 disabled people who previously got the DLA being denied PIP between 8 April 2013 and 31 July 2017. This was 21% of all disabled people who were reassessed by private outsourcing firms Atos and Capita.
- Atos PIP assessors asking claimants they were reassessing: ‘why haven’t you killed yourself, yet?’
- Between April 2017 and June 2017, 14,077 people winning their appeals against the DWP denying them PIP. This was 65% of all cases.
- Also, between April 2015 and April 2017, 204,798 people winning their PIP appeals or mandatory reconsiderations against the DWP.
Pidcock: projecting the unheard voices
Pidcock believes that the government must start listening to people negatively affected by the process. She told The Canary:
I have met many people who feel utterly degraded by the process. I want their experiences to be heard and the Minister to listen and respond to them. When I asked for people to send me their experiences, just a day ago, the response was overwhelming and there have been some harrowing stories. It is clear the system is punishing and must be changed.
And with the government just recently having been found to be in violation of disabled people’s human rights for the fifth time in 20 months, Pidcock’s debate is needed more than ever.