PIP insecurity “overwhelming” says Scope helpline

The number of disabled people seeking support with Personal Independence Payment (PIP) through the Scope helpline has sharply risen in the last year. 

According to new figures released today, Scope’s free helpline service handled 2,185 PIP related calls over the past year – a 542% increase on 2015-16[1]. 

Scope’s helpline said: “The insecurity PIP has created has been overwhelming.”

The figures follow the recent government announcement reversing the effects of a court ruling which would have expanded the number of people who can claim PIP.

This week Scope has received a number of queries through its helpline, online community, social media and customer contact teams from current disabled claimants who are worried about whether these new changes would affect them.  

Debbie Voakes on the Scope helpline, said:

“Working on a national helpline is eye-opening because we can see so many variations nationwide. We have heard hundreds of stories about bad assessment reports and bad decision making. 

65% of people who dispute their PIP award are successful in their appeal of that decision; this is clear evidence of how flawed the system is. The insecurity PIP has created has been overwhelming.

It’s also been quite common for disabled people to be assessed for both ESA (Employment Support Allowance) and PIP at roughly the same time, causing incredible anxiety and stress.”

Sarah (not her real name) has been diagnosed with multiple illnesses, including fibromyalgia, she said: 

“I experience all over body pain constantly, weakness, severe exhaustion all the time, problems sleeping and can’t do much for myself. I have severe depression because of it all. 

I struggled without support for years. I couldn’t get the benefits help that I needed. I got into serious debt.

I started DLA (Disability Living Allowance) payments four years ago. They put me on the higher rate for mobility and care which I’ve been on for the last four years. In February 2016 I was changed over to PIP – I was reassessed, we had to do the whole process again, reapply. Unfortunately the ATOS assessor that assessed me as not very disabled and took all my care off me. It was absolutely devastating.”

Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive of disability charity Scope, said:

“The overwhelming surge in calls our helpline has received on PIP must serve as a wake-up call to the government. 

The current PIP assessment is not fit for purpose and tightening access to this vital extra costs payment is only causing further worry and stress for the thousands of disabled people who rely on PIP.

Scope research shows disabled people spend on average £550 a month on disability-related costs. PIP is designed to help meet some of these extra costs but clearly the system isn’t working. 

Before making any further changes to PIP the government must urgently address the very real concerns that disabled people have and reform the PIP assessment so that it accurately captures the extra costs disabled people face.”

Ends

Notes to the editor:

For more details or interviews please contact Cora Bauer in the Scope Press Office on 020 7619 7200 or at cora.bauer@scope.org.uk 

References 
1. Scope, Helpline Data, 2015/16 and 2016/17

Describing the impact of the PIP appeals process, an anonymous user on the Scope online community said: 
“I've just got my PIP decision back after the mandatory review. Nothing changed still a carbon copy of original decision but I have gone from indefinite middle rate care and high rate mobility to no care and no mobility. It’s as though I have miraculously been cured of spondylosis of neck spine and lower back. [I have experienced] severe anxiety and panic attacks, numbness in my legs and cramping of hands.”

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