An Open Letter to Theresa May, Esther McVey and Sarah Newton

Subject: An Open Letter to Theresa May, Esther McVey and Sarah Newton
From: Claire Quinton, CQB Care Consultancy, Independent Care & Benefits Consultant
Date: 30 Jan 2018

Re: Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Review of All Claims

I write to applaud the recent announcement of the review of all PIP Claims following the High Court decision that changes to the PIP criteria introduced in March 2017 amounted to ‘blatant discrimination’.

However, I also wish to express my concerns as to how these Reviews will take place and to request that the scope of the Reviews is extended to cover those who applied for PIP but were declined, those who transferred from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to PIP but were declined, and those who had erroneous decisions on their Claims for reasons other than that linked to this particular High Court Appeal. This is because there is more at fault with the PIP system than the in-built discrimination against those with Mental Health.

In February 2017 the Department for Work and Pensions announced changes to the PIP criteria from 16 March 2017 in direct response to Court decisions in November 2016. The changes restricted the ability of those with Mental Health Conditions to be awarded points under particularly the Mobility Component by including the wording ‘For reasons other than psychological distress’.

And yet, merely two months later as a part of her election campaign Theresa May stated “on my first day in Downing Street last July, I described shortfalls in mental health services as one of the burning injustices in our Country” and she pledged to remove discrimination due to Mental Health. While I accept that this referred to the Mental Health Act, one would have hoped that the sentiment of removing discrimination would extend to all areas of public services and so show the Government’s clear commitment to removing Mental Health discrimination across the Country. In October 2017 Theresa May reaffirmed her commitment by stating her intention to “tackle the longstanding injustices of discrimination in our mental health system once and for all”. Again, although this relates to the Mental Health Act, one would have hoped the aim was to tackle all longstanding injustices of discrimination in mental health.

And yet, it took a High Court decision to end the discrimination in the Benefit System against those with Mental Health Conditions, a discrimination directly targeted to negatively impact on people with disabilities in claiming a benefit designed to help and support people with disabilities.

So, I applaud the decision that not only will the Government not challenge the High Court Ruling, but that it will order a review of all PIP claims.

However, I have reservations about how this will be undertaken and those that will be excluded from the Review because they do not have current Claims, either now or at such a time as their Claim would be reviewed.

How will the Reviews be undertaken? Will they be in anyway independent? Are the DWP going to have Targets for Claims that must remain the same as the current award as with the 80% Target for Reconsiderations? With then pressure to meet these targets meaning that over 87% of original decisions are upheld. And then when at Tribunal over 68% of those original decision are overturned?

Will they involve face-to-face assessments, that follow the same process as those currently in progress? Including ones that I have attended when the Assessor’s Report comes out and you think you must have been in a totally different Assessment, so far removed is the Report from what actually happened.

Will they involve the same phone calls from DWP Officers to advise people that on review it may very well be that their entitlement decreases? Or when the DWP requests to reassess before a Tribunal and the reassessment officer encourages the Claimant to take their Award as the Tribunal Judge may decide to award less?

How do those where Advisers like me, Claimants themselves and their Families know that the Award is still too low either due to the pressures above or the Tribunal applying the rules in force at that time, ensure that their Claim is reviewed urgently?

What date will any changes in entitlement due to the Review be dated from? Presumably they will be backdated to the date of the first incorrect application of the relevant Legislation and Guidance?

What happens if someone dies before their entitlement can be reviewed?

What happens to people whose entitlement stops for any other reason before it can be reviewed?

In cases where a review of PIP entitlement means that someone’s Income Related Benefits would also increase due to the award of Premiums linked to the rate of PIP, will these Benefit increases also be made retrospectively?

What about people who have either not been able to apply for a Motability Car or have lost their Motability Car because of the incorrect decisions that have been made?

What about the financial impact on people’s lives from these incorrect decisions? The loss of jobs? The debt? The cutting back on essentials? The going without food? The not putting the heating on?

And the emotional impact; the sleepless nights, the stress and the worry both about the process so far and now about potentially having to go through it all again. These are people with disabilities.

What about Carers who have not been able to claim Carer’s Allowance due to the incorrect PIP decision? How are they going to be compensated?

So, my concerns are that while on the face of it this is an excellent move, whether this will transpire into practice. As I said, this shouldn’t just be about reviewing to ascertain those wrongly impacted by March 2017 changes, but needs to address the in-built discrimination and malpractice in the whole PIP process for all Claimants.

I, as well as the 1.6 million Claimants and the many others whose Claims were wrongly turned down or withdrawn, wait with anticipation for your reply.

I will also be copying into this letter the Constituent MPs of my Clients who have been adversely affected by the errors in PIP assessments, as well as publishing online this, my open letter.

Yours sincerely

Claire Quinton
CQB Care Consultancy