People in Lancashire fighting unfair benefit cuts

Hundreds of disabled people have won legal action against the Government

By Mike Hill
Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 4:40 pm

More than 1,000 disabled people in Preston have taken the Government to tribunal over benefit payments and more than half won.

Disability charities say that the latest data proves the Government’s assessment process is not fit for purpose, with Scope calling for a "radical rehaul" of the system.

Between April 2013 and the end of 2020, the Department of Work and Pensions assessed 12,180 applications for Personal Independence Payment from people in the area – 66% resulted in an award being granted.

More than 1,000 disabled people in Preston have challenged Government at benefit tribunals

The benefit – which is not means tested – covers the additional expenses faced by those with disabilities and is worth between £23 and £150 a week, depending on an individual's needs.

The application process, described by Disability Rights UK as complex and stressful, sees most claimants meet with a DWP assessor who evaluates their care and mobility needs as part of a points-based system.

If the applicant is unhappy with the outcome, a mandatory reconsideration can be requested, which sees the DWP review the decision.

In Preston, around one in six awards taken to that first appeal stage were changed.

Since 2013, 1,120 people have escalated their cases further and challenged the DWP at a tribunal, with an independent panel overturning the Government's decision in 540 (60 per cent) of those cases.

Louise Rubin from Scope described PIP as a vital financial lifeline, estimating that day-to-day living can cost over £500 a month more for those with disabilities.

But she said the assessment process was fundamentally flawed, adding: “Disabled people have told us about specific failures in their PIP assessment, such as their views and experiences not being listened to, information recorded inaccurately, the advice and views of medical experts ignored and a lack of understanding, empathy or compassion from staff.

“If the DWP got more decisions right first time, fewer disabled people would go through a lengthy and stressful appeal process to get the vital support they need.”

Across Great Britain over 350,000 appeals - from more than four million applications - have been lodged since 2013 and the claimant won in more than two-thirds of those cases.

However, Michael Paul from Disability Rights UK said many applicants do not appeal because they are “tired of the stressful and time-consuming bureaucracy” and fear losing any existing award.

A DWP spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring that people get all the support they are entitled to and in the vast majority of cases there isn’t an appeal as we make the right decision, first time.

“When someone disagrees with a decision we will, where necessary, contact them to get further information so decisions can be thoroughly reviewed and an appeal potentially avoided.”