SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty MLA has called on Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA to urgently review the way in which her department is managing and processing Personal Independence Payment (PIP) applications.
Mr McNulty said, ‘The application process for PIP is a gruelling and challenging process for those who are seeking help and yet many are being refused the benefit. The high number of decisions overturned at appeal stage here show glaring flaws within the system - it serves as proof that assessments are not being conducted correctly to begin with.’
‘Conducting and processing these appeals comes at a cost to the public purse which is concerning. But what is more concerning is the anguish, anxiety and aggravating inconvenience it causes applicants. There has been much criticism of the assessment process and these figures are clear evidence that those concerns and criticisms have not been unfounded.’
‘It also makes the Communities Minister’s decision to extend Capita’s contract for a further 2 years all the more baffling, particularly when her own party has been among Capita’s biggest critics. Not only does this decision need challenged but it must be scrutinised.’
‘Delays plaguing the appeal process has been exacerbated by the pandemic, therefore we now have a system failing people in the first instance, forcing them into appalling backlogs and then waiting months to appeal a wrongful decision for support to which they are fully entitled to.’
Mr McNulty concluded, ‘The PIP system is pushing disabled applicants into poverty and in the process aggravating already poor health conditions. This can't go unchallenged - the system is not serving its intended purpose but rather putting increasing pressures on already struggling individuals.’
The PIP test is what the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) use to decide whether you are entitled to Personal Independence Payment.
There are two sections in the PIP test for each component of PIP: daily-living and mobility.
There are activities in each section. You are awarded points for each activity, depending on your ability and how much help you need to do it. The points you score for each activity in a section are added together.
If you score between eight and 11 points for your daily living needs in the PIP test, you get the standard rate of the daily living component. You get the enhanced rate of daily living component if you score 12 points or more.
If you score between eight and 11 points for your mobility needs you get the standard rate of the mobility component. If you score 12 points or more you get the enhanced rate of mobility component.