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PIP benefit assessments for disabled people may not be working and need adjusting, minister admits

The controversial disability benefit system could need adjusting to ensure vulnerable people are properly supported, a Government minister has said.

Disabilities Minister Tom Pursglove told i he was not ruling out changing the way Personal Independent Payment (PIP) assessments work amid fears that the system is inaccurate and arduous.

Mr Pursglove said he did not expect the PIP process would be overhauled entirely but that the Government would “take stock” on potential issues as it pushes through changes.

Concerns have been raised over the assessment after the Government announced plans earlier this year to streamline the benefit system and place more emphasis on PIP.

MPs on the Work and Pensions committee have suggested the government is effectively raising the bar for vulnerable people to receive support.

PIP assessments are also often wrong, forcing people to appeal their case. i revealed earlier this week that more than 200,000 people have been wrongly denied PIP in recent years.

The minister said that he wanted to see more correct decisions and this could mean the system has to be looked at.

“We don’t envisage that there will be wholesale change around the PIP assessment, but obviously, we will want to take stock as we move forward with the reforms,” the minister said in an interview with i.

“That is why we were doing the workshops. We are having the engagement with disabled people, with stakeholders and other organisations as we move forward with that white paper.

“And things like matching expert assessors with people’s primary health conditions or disabilities, I hope, will give confidence to people in that new system. It is right that we test and trial that.”

He added: “Fundamentally, I want to see more decisions got right first time. I want people to have a better overall experience when they navigate the benefit system and that people get the support and the help they need in as timely a way as possible.

“We will need to have a look at that assessment moving forward and check in on its appropriateness and the way in which that that is conducted.”

Under the proposed changes, published in the Health and Disability White Paper, the work capability assessment (WCA) for determining disabled or sick people’s unemployment benefits will be replaced by the PIP system.

PIP is used to decide what day-to-day help a disabled person might need and experts have warned it is not fit for deciding on employment expectations because it could unfairly penalise those who do not meet rigid definitions of disability.

For example, someone with a condition such as an “invisible” chronic illness, a complex mental health condition, or multiple sclerosis – which can vary from person to person – could be forced into work or have their benefits cut.

Mr Pursglove stood by the decision to scrap the WCA, which was welcomed by many, arguing that it was wrong to have a “world where people have to prove that they’re not fit for work in order to access their entitlement to support”.

“We’ve got a lot of disabled people and people with health conditions in this country would like to work and wouldn’t do with the right support around there,” he said.

“I hope that people who have those anxieties around the processes will find that their experience will be bettered, or that they will feel that their experience for the benefit system is better, once we’ve been able to bring those changes forward,” he added.

And the minister said he was keen to reassure disabled communities by involving them in ongoing consultations about new policies.

A new public survey on the Government’s Disability Action Plan was launched earlier this week, which asked for public views on proposals such as training in disability awareness under for taxi drivers and bringing in a British Sign Language (BSL) GCSE.

People are being urged to respond to the consultation, which opened on Tuesday and runs for 12 weeks, and which will be used to inform the plan later this year.

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