One of the problems we have been researching this month is how local people are affected by the change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments. We have seen national media coverage which indicates that the scoring system for the assessment for PIP is tougher than the old DLA one was and so a percentage of people who had an entitlement to DLA are not being awarded PIP. A particular concern that has been raised on the national stage is the situation for people with mental health problems as these are often difficult to quantify/express in terms of the benefit assessment categories which means that people don’t get the right decision on entitlement first time round but have to challenge and appeal before being awarded the money due to them.
We did some quick reviews of the last fifteen clients that we had helped with DLA or PIP claims to get a snapshot of what is happening locally. Most of the cases are ongoing – it often takes some weeks before the issues are resolved and there can be quite a delay between claiming and being assessed. In three of the cases, after initial contact, the client did not engage further with us so we hope that they found another method of support locally. For the other twelve, two were successful, two failed and eight are yet to be resolved. We felt there was strong ‘merit’ in the two cases which succeeded, on the basis of experience within our team of assessing cases for our previous legal aid contract where it was a requirement that we only took on cases where there was clear merit in the arguments we would put forward. We are not constrained by any such considerations now but it can be helpful in supporting the client to give them information about what supports their case and how best to present information and what outcomes might be achieved. The two cases which failed whilst disappointing for the client were, on the basis of the evidence the client presented cross referenced with the eligibility criteria, less likely to succeed. We were able to advise them on alternative welfare benefits etc.
The eight cases which are still in progress involve a mix of physical and mental health issues such as: Epliepsy, visual impairment, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Multiple Sclerosis, Mobility difficulties, Paranoid Schizophrenia, Depression, Gastrointestinal problems, Fatigue, Blood supply problems leading to Brain Surgery, Brain tumour and Arthritis. It is not unusual for a client to have more than one condition and depression is a very common concomitant of physical health problems. Four of the eight cases involve mental health issues as well as physical problems.
Six out of the eight people whose case is ongoing have long term conditions which their doctor says are unlikely to improve or cannot improve or will deteriorate. Two of them have cases where they might be some improvement. Four of them had been on DLA for a long time and have been refused PIP.
The general picture is of people with serious health conditions where the system works in a way that , at least in the short term, adds to their anguish and distress rather than helps them to effectively manage their condition. We hope that this is an unintended consequence of the way the benefits system works….and will continue to help people on a case by case basis and support them to alleviate money and other worries in their family units wherever possible. We are hanging on in there…. as are the people making the claims…..