Ongoing reviews mean claimants need to prove they are entitled to benefits - and often fail to do so
Nearly half of all Personal Independence Payments (PIP) claimants had their money cut or halted last year due to ongoing “planned reviews” which constantly reassess their entitlement.
Disability News Service obtained unpublished figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) showing that the number of PIP claimants who had their payments reduced after a review of their entitlement rose from less than 10% in 2014 to nearly 20% in 2016.
The proportion who lost their PIP completely after a planned review increased from 13% in 2014 to nearly 25%, or one in four of all reviews, in 2016.
It means that nearly half (45%) of PIP claimants who had a planned review of their award in 2016 either saw it cut or lost it entirely.
Everyone on disability living allowance (DLA) is migrating to the PIP system which involves a series of initial assessments to confirm eligibility.
However even if a claimant initially qualifies for PIP, the new regime of reviews means they constantly fear having their payments cuts or, worse, halted.
The DWP describes a PIP review as “an opportunity to look at entitlement at set intervals to ensure the claimant continues to get the right amount.”
As PIP is mostly aimed at people with long-term conditions, most of which do not improve, campaigners say they it is unlikely such a high proportion of claimants’ conditions are improving within a few years.
Disabled researcher Stef Benstead, from the Spartacus Network – a group of group of disabled and chronically ill camapigners - said: “I think any change made, whether to guidelines or training or legislation, should be publicised, so sick and disabled people know what they’re facing.
The government will probably argue that it is improving the accuracy of assessments.
“But its arguments regarding the mobility threshold, aids and appliances, and now on mental health, show that it has no evidence that people are getting more help than they need, and plenty of evidence that people are getting less help than they need.
“It’s disturbing that the government plays with benefit assessments in this way without any scrutiny, justification or decent evidence.
“If it’s going to shaft people, at least let it do so in the open.”
Last week Labour’s Derek Twigg told MPs: “I just cannot understand why some of the people who come to see me have not been awarded their [PIP].
“I have had experience of cases such as these over a number of years now, and I have never come across such difficult cases as those I have seen recently.”
Anita Bellows, a Disabled People Against Cuts researcher, said it looked like the figures were being deliberately covered up.
“Interestingly, and unlike employment and support allowance, these reassessment statistics are not published as part of DWP normal statistics releases,” she said.
“It looks like DWP is not keen to have these figures in the public domain.”
Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said the figures show that PIP currently isn’t working for those who rely on it.
"According to our own estimates, one in five people with MS have lost access to some or all of their mobility support after being reassessed from DLA. And new rules introduced last month will make it even harder for people to access PIP.
“Living with a long-term and unpredictable condition like MS is hard enough; it shouldn’t be made harder by a welfare system that doesn’t make sense. The government must improve PIP assessments to reflect the realities of living with MS.”
A spokesperson for the DWP said the data was not complete as the system was still transferring people from DLA to the new payments.
“Many claimants moved across to PIP will not have had award reviews yet and therefore will not be represented in the data,” they said.