One in five Hartlepool claimants lose disability benefits under new system

A disabled entrance door button. Picture by PA Wire/PA Images
A disabled entrance door button. Picture by PA Wire/PA Images

Almost a fifth of people in Hartlepool receiving disability benefits have had their payments stopped as part of the roll-out of a new system.

Charity Scope said that many disabled people are “losing out on vital support” under the new system.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill

And Hartlepool MP Mike Hill said he gets inundated with people facing hardship over disability benefit decisions, which he describes as ‘deeply worrying’.

Since 2013, the Government has been moving claimants from Disability Living Allowance to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

In Hartlepool, 19% of Disability Living Allowance claimants failed the assessment for PIP.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, 3,367 people in Hartlepool have applied to switch from DLA to PIP since it was introduced, and 649 of them were turned down.

Like Disability Living Allowance, the Personal Independence Payment is a tax-free, monthly benefit to help disabled people with the costs of living and transport.

Claimants can get a maximum of £83.10 for daily living costs and up to £58.00 if they have mobility issues or need help with getting around – a total of £141.10 a week at the highest level.

The DWP decide how much to award based on a ‘How your disability affects you’ form and a points score from the face-to-face assessment, as well as any supporting evidence that the claimant provides.

In Hartlepool, the most common reason for applicants losing their disability benefits was failing the face-to-face assessment.

Assessors turned down 453 claimants after the assessment, and 71 people for failing to turn up to the appointment.

A further 119 people were turned down because they did not send in the correct form on time.

Town MP Mr Hill said: “I have been inundated with cases of people either losing or having their disability allowances suspended.

“This has led to cases of extreme hardship, the loss of motability vehicles and has caused great stress to those who clearly are unable to work and rely on things like PIP and DLA.

“I have seen for myself people with very clear disabilities being denied support following assessments and have helped countless numbers retrieve their benefits on appeal.

“The loss of these benefits is life changing and affects the lives of people from all backgrounds. 
“Vital support is systematically taken away from those most in need in a cynical move to get the numbers of those on state aid down and that is a very cruel and punitive thing to do.”

Scope said that it regularly speaks with disabled people who are put off by the complexity and stress of applying for PIP.

A spokesperson said: “It is deeply worrying that so many disabled people are losing out on vital support when being reassessed for PIP.

“The entire system needs to be much more focused on the needs of the individual.

“With record levels of appeals against decisions successful, the whole decision making process is beset with problems.”

In 2017, a survey by Disability Rights UK found that many claimants thought that the face-to-face assessment was “a punishing and traumatic process”.

Survey respondents said that assessors were “ill-informed and not suitably knowledgeable of the disability they are preparing to assess”.

The DWP said that under PIP, 31% of successful applicants get the maximum rate, compared to 15% under DLA.

A DWP spokesperson said: “PIP is a fairer benefit, which takes a much wider look at the way an individual’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis.

“Therefore someone claiming DLA is not automatically entitled to PIP.

“We’re committed to ensuring that disabled people get the support they need, which is why we’re spending nearly £53 billion this year on benefits to support them – a record high.”

Across England, more than three million people lost their disability benefits after applying for PIP.