Scottish disability campaigners planning to picket Holyrood over newly devolved benefit
Tomorrow afternoon will see disability rights campaigners stage a national day of action against “sham” assessments for Personal Independence Payments (Pip).
Campaigners intend to picket assessment centres in 16 cities around the UK, including London, Glasgow, and Manchester, with Scottish activists also planning to assemble outside Holyrood. The day of action has been called by a several disability rights groups, including the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac), and Black Triangle.
Pip is a benefit intended to meet the extra costs of living with a long-term disability, and is available for those both in and out work. The benefit was introduced in 2013 and pays for necessary items like specially adapted cars, taxis, or personal care assistants at home. Receipt of the benefit depends on completion of an assessment process which has been dogged by controversy, with campaigners saying disabled people are being unfairly excluded from payments due to overly strict assesment criteria.
Ahead of the day of action, a spokesperson for Dpac said: “We are constantly being contacted by people who used to receive DLA, [but are] now found ineligible for PIP and are in desperate situations, many of them suicidal or parents besides themselves with anxiety about the future for their disabled children.”
The government claimed that the benefit replaced by Pip, Disablility Living Allowance (DLA) was “not sustainable” in the long term. Pip was part of a wider strategy to focus on the practical effects of a person’s condition rather than the condition itself.
During the controversial assessments, claimants are asked to perform basic tasks to prove eligibility for payments. Previously, a claimant was considered ‘virtually unable to walk’ if they were not able to walk 50 metres. With the switch to Pip, that distance changed to 20 metres. Inclusion Scotland recently reported that around 100 claimants are losing their motability car each week, as a result of the changes.
According to the Multiple Sclerosis Society (MSS) the assessment “ignores invisible symptoms like pain and fatigue”. After doing a survey of their members, they claimed that “42 per cent of people who had a face-to-face assessment for Personal Independence Payment disagreed that the assessor considered their hidden symptoms.”
According to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) statistics, some 20 per cent of all initial claims eventually result in a mandatory reconsideration, and 40 per cent of that figure results in a change of award.
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