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People with mental health conditions are being cheated out of awards of the mobility component of a key government disability benefit, according to a leading welfare rights website.
And the highly-regarded Benefits and Work puts the blame on assessors and decision-makers who, it says, are failing to collect evidence and are then misapplying the law.
Shocking evidence of this behaviour, whether by accident, negligence, or deliberate tactics, has been uncovered by a survey of more than 1,000 people who had applied for the UK’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP) mobility component because of mental health.
Benefits and Work director Steve Donnison said: “They told us how their evidence about problems with planning and following a route was simply not included in the assessor’s report.”
He gave these examples:
Must cower in corner, claimant told
Assessor: Can you plan and navigate a journey?
Claimant: No, my son does this.
Assessor: Do you use an app to plan your journey?
Claimant: My son does this. (I told him I always use a taxi, always the same company, always with my son, only ever go to doctor and hospital appts usually. None of this appeared in the report).
Others, Donnison alleged, were misled about whether they might qualify:
Claimant: When I asked the assessor to consider my mental health, they said unless I was cowering in the corner and unable to speak I wouldn’t get any consideration for mobility on mental health grounds.
Claimant: She (the assessor) asked if I had a car? I said yes and she said if you can drive you won’t be awarded the mobility part.
Donnison continued: “In many cases, a tiny amount of evidence was used to unlawfully justify refusal. Much of this related to driving a car, or simply having a current driving licence.
Claimant: The assessor said I had a driving licence that I had used as ID. Said I drive myself and work full time.
Neither is true. What is true is I own a car that I’m unable to use most of time and have lifts from husband or use taxi. I’ve not been to work for almost a year.
Follow law? ‘Not what DWP does’
In fact, as the decision-maker knows, when deciding on eligibility for the mobility component the law requires the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to look at the claimant’s ability to follow a route on foot, using public transport and by car. All three, not just one!
But being able to use taxis, getting to hospital appointments, turning up at a face-to-face assessment or even walking the dog were also wrongly used to refuse awards.
Being able to undertake one-off journeys, such as to an assessment or a hospital appointment, or even familiar journeys does not mean claimants don’t qualify. Other factors, such as the ability to follow unfamiliar routes, being able to reliably undertake journeys and the effect on you afterwards must all be taken into account.
THAT’S WHAT THE LAW SAYS.
Donnison said: ”Sadly, it’s definitely not what the DWP does – as many of the people who responded to our survey discovered to their cost.”
To me, it is just one more example (as if we needed any more) that the DWP and its benefits assessment system is shamefully uncaring, gets away with ignoring the law, and is totally unfit for purpose.
It is time that the department’s work culture, illegal practices, and highly questionable ethics, were investigated and stopped.
Those responsible should pay the price. Whether the faults lie with contracted assessors and their bosses, civil servants, DWP chief Thérèse Coffey, other political overlords, or a combination of any of them, things must change. Heads must roll!
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Please note that being born in the UK, all my posts, are written using British English spelling.
Centre not center (except in names, Centers of Disease Control) Colour not color Diarrhoea not diarrhea Haematology not hematology Haematopoietic not hematopoietic
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. More recently, he was a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.
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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Ian is not a doctor, so cannot and does not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely his own unless otherwise stated.