Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, says he will continue with welfare reforms and intensify the crackdown on benefits. He says his welfare reforms are ‘delivering’ after Labour left ‘whole sections of society on the side-lines’.
I disagree. The impact of these reforms is that some of the most vulnerable in society are left destitute.
Delays in processing Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are an example. From October 2013 PIP began to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – affecting 3.5 million people.
The Government says there is nothing to worry about with these reforms.
However recent Department for Work and Pensions statistics show that of 349,000 new PIP claims received only 83,900 claims have had a decision made – around one in four.
New claimants have to wait months for a decision and even longer if they seek a reconsideration or appeal. These delays are unacceptable and cause suffering. People tell me the system makes them want to give up.
Those affected are vulnerable with long-term health problems or disabilities. In my constituency cases have included disabled children and those with terminal illnesses such as cancer – not the people we need to ‘crack-down’ on.
In one case DLA was stopped without warning, it took ten months to process the PIP application – resulting in severe hardship.
PIP, which pays from £21-£134 a week, makes a real difference to people’s lives. It helps those who have difficulties with basic tasks most of us take for granted, such as preparing and eating food, washing and using the toilet. It is also used to help people who struggle with mobility.
Those hit by the delays also face being denied access to other crucial benefits such as Carers Allowance and Severe Disability Premium. For some the additional time waiting could mean losing a job, training or even a home.
This reform has been a disaster and according to the National Audit Office, if the current backlogs continue PIP will ‘not deliver value for money in the longer term’. PIP does not deliver for disabled people and is not just side-lining many, but pushing them into poverty.