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Patricia Gibson, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, spoke out at Westminster recently against the UK Government’s assessment systems for people with disabilities describing them as physically and psychologically damagaing.
The assessments for benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are under fire because a quarter of all people who claimed Disability Living Allowance were disallowed its replacement benefit, PIP, after undergoing an assessment. Yet between July and September last year 72 per cent of ESA appeals overturned an unfavourable decision based on a Work Capability Assessment.
Mrs Gibson called on the UK Government to completely overhaul the assessment systems for people with disabilities and said: ‘We know that evidence based reviews conducted on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) identified a pervasive culture of mistrust around PIP and ESA processes, culminating in fear of face-to-face assessments, creating huge anxiety for many people.
‘PIP and ESA support is essential for people unable to work due to life limiting health conditions.
‘I am appalled that this UK Government believes it acceptable to have private contractors carry out assessments on vulnerable people.
‘Supporting sick and disabled people should not be influenced by how much profit a contractor can make. All three existing contractors failed to meet key performance targets in any given period. In Capita’s case as many as 56 per cent were unacceptable. This only contributes to and exacerbates a lack of trust in the system.
‘We need to completely overhaul these punishing assessments which are physically and psychologically damaging to claimants. The stress and bureaucracy claimants are put through – and I see this up close every day here in North Ayrshire – causes real harm to people already struggling with often very serious and debilitating conditions.
‘Sadly, the UK Government has forced those whose poor health prevents them from working to bear the brunt of its punitive austerity agenda. The entire DWP system appears hostile to sick and disabled people and that needs to change, taking greater account of the often very vulnerable people with whom it deals.’