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MindWise calls on government to change the PIP system now

Thu, 08 - July - 2021

Here’s our 10p's worth!

MindWise adds their voice to the call for the government to change the PIP system now.

Our clients are speaking up and we wish for their voices to be heard and influence Stormont and Westminster decision-makers for fundamental change to the PIP benefits system.

Respect and dignity should underpin any system, particularly where it affects the most vulnerable in our society. We do not believe the current system demonstrates this.

In the past year, we have recovered £2.5 million for our clients. A huge £644,035 of this is benefit entitlements and appeals on behalf of those initially turned down by the PIP system.

Our Mental Health and Money Advice Manager, Michele Loughran, explains the impact of the PIP system on our clients at MindWise and the need for transformation:

"Recent news reports outlined that many people in Northern Ireland are having their Personal Independence Payment (PIP) applications unfairly rejected," says Michele. "Some individuals have bravely come forward to share their stories with the media and talk about how they felt badly treated at the assessment stage of the application. One of the most common difficulties cited by claimants was not being asked for medical history before a decision is made.

"At our Mental Health and Money Advice Service, we hear similar accounts from many of our clients as we support them through the benefits system.

  • Few individuals have had a positive experience when claiming PIP.
  • Many find the whole process daunting, adding anxiety and distress to their situation.

"Our staff are all trained in welfare reform and mental health awareness and know how various diagnoses can affect the individual. We take on board the supporting medical evidence from a medical professional to support the client. We also provide other community support as do our partners for the ongoing recovery of our clients. Read more about MindWise's services.

"We do not think as it currently stands that the PIP benefits system is protecting the rights of our clients in Northern Ireland. A recent report by NI Public Services Ombudsman, Margaret Kelly, revealed that the system is causing enormous harm. It found that the Department for Communities and Capita, who carry out PIP assessments, often fail to seek relevant medical evidence, leading to incorrect decisions. This means claimants need to challenge decisions until the correct one is made. This extremely stressful for claimants, many of whom are already living with a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, and is putting lives at risk. It doesn’t even cover the dual needs of a client who may be coping with other difficulties.

"The reason for our position is based on the following queries and questions:

  • Our clients do not understand why their recall of a conversation does not correlate with the report of the conversation.
  • We often do not understand why, when we hear the impact of mental health on a client’s situation, this is not heard by the PIP assessor?
  • Significantly, how can an assessor disagree with a medical professional’s findings?
  • Does the quality of the training and delivery by the assessors of the PIP system enable a compassionate approach to be applied?
  • We also know medical reports are not being obtained and question, how can a rightful decision be made without medical intervention?
  • How many more complaints are needed, or upheld, how many more clients in despair will it take before the Executive makes the right decision and reforms this process now?
  • If all these failings are noted, is the current supplier fulfilling the requirements of the contract and if so are these fulfilling the government requirements under the Equality legislation?

"Our biggest question to the government is, when will you change the benefits system and approach to welfare for it to be compassionate and not create trauma for many of our citizens, who may already be struggling?

"Our clients and many citizens in the region have already experienced the impact of:

  • Welfare Reform and the introduction of Universal Credit in NI in 2017, which is a complex and long process causing extreme distress and adding to extreme poverty. We’ve all read the press stories on what a devastating impact this had on those in extreme poverty.
  • The delays in a comprehensive review of poverty and capitalising on the opportunities via inclusive growth and the much heralded city region deals. A review that would consider the best approach to measuring poverty and take into account the impact of Covid-19.

"There needs to be a:

  • Full action plan in place now, for any financial fall out from Covid to ensure financial resilience, whether it for young people leaving school or someone who may lose their job for the first time.
  • A benefits system in place that has the proper systems, processes, investigations and outcomes in order. Then let us and our partners embed what is right for our communities and focus on people as individuals and build confidence within health, education and the voluntary and community sector.

"We can bring forward cases studies, voice recordings and client interviews to the government departments involved where evidence is required to support change and consent has been given by clients."

We appeal that you are bold and act now.

Do not let this situation perpetuate, act with us for those who depend on us doing the right thing.

Let our clients and many others concentrate on their mental health recovery from any financial distress and we can transform together a best value system that meets the needs of government and the clients that need the aid it provides.

Our Mental Health and Money Advice Service can support you to hold the PIP system to account if you've been rejected for benefits you need, leading your mental health to deteriorate further. Call us on freephone 08088010373 and choose Northern Ireland.

Our service is funded solely by Lloyds Banking Group and has been developed by Mental Health UKa UK-wide charity that represents its four member charities; MindWise in Northern Ireland; Rethink Mental Illness in England, Adferiad Recovery in Wales and Support in Mind in Scotland.

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