Identical Twins, identical diagnosis, different PIP awards?

Emma Reynolds (above) was damming in her criticism of the benefits system
Ministers have again come under fire over an “unfit” policy on disability benefits – as an MP revealed how identical twins, suffering with the same condition, had been given differing judgements by assessors.
The twins, who both had the same genetic condition, went for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments at different times and one was approved, while the other was rejected.

Last month the Work and Pensions select committee found that for at least 290,000 claimants of PIP and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), 6% of all those assessed, the right decision on entitlement was not made first time around.

Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs at Work and Pensions questions raised individual cases where people were having issues with PIP and ESA, including one suffering with epilepsy and another with an inoperable brain tumour.

Labour MP Emma Reynolds, speaking in the Commons, said: “I’ve been helping identical twins who have the same genetic condition involving learning disabilities and associated health problems, both were assessed for PIP at different times by different assessors, one was granted PIP and one was rejected.

“This case has now been resolved but can’t the minister see that the system is totally unfit for purpose and needs overhauling?”

Work and Pensions Minister Sarah Newton drew scoffs from the Labour benches when she told MPs the fact the case was resolved showed the system was working.

She said:

“The very fact that the case has been resolved shows that the system is working. It’s very important to me that we make the right decision the first time and I’ve set in place a whole series of improvements to PIP, we have followed the advice given to us by the independent review of PIP and are working at pace to make the necessary changes.”

A number of MPs raised the high level of successful appeals by those looking to claim PIP and ESA, with around two thirds of all appeals overturned in favour of the claimant.

Ms Newton said she was “absolutely determined” to ensure the right decision is made every time, and said: “There have been 3.1 million PIP decisions made and 9% of those have been appealed and 4% of those have been overturned.” But MPs kept on raising individual cases to the minister.

Lib Dem Layla Moran said a constituent with a rare inherited disorder had received the old Disability Living Allowance (DLA), but since turning 16 was scored zero in every category on her PIP assessment. “Would the minister consent to meet with me and my constituent so we can iron out this clear case of computer says no,” the Oxford West and Abingdon MP added.

Labour whip Jeff Smith said he had two cases where constituents with serious and deteriorating cerebral palsy both scored zero points on their PIP assessments. “In both cases, the constituents require round the clock care, and yet both are forced to appeal the PIP decisions,” “Does the minister think it’s acceptable that people with serious and deteriorating disabilities are being forced to go through the courts to get the support they deserve?”

His Labour colleague Clive Efford added: “My constituent was called back early for a Personal Independence Payment assessment. “The assessment made no reference to the fact he has an inoperable brain tumour, which has led to him having intractable epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. “Can the minister explain why he was recalled for an assessment?”

Labour former minister Angela Eagle said her constituent of working age had suffered two strokes and has now been diagnosed as suffering from vascular dementia. She added: “He has been found to be fit for work, even though he has major problems with his short term memory, will have to appeal this decision and faces a wait of up to 30 weeks before he can get any kind of hearing or have his benefit restored.

“How can this possibly be a system that is working or acceptable?”

In her answers, Ms Newton said the vast majority of claimants go through the process and get the support they need, and many more people were receiving higher levels of support on PIP compared with DLA.

The process was designed to treat people with compassion and accurately look at the medical evidence, she added.

How’s that working out for them so far?…

Alex @RespectIsVital


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