Campaigners protest against Government welfare changes. Photo credit: via photopin (license)

The Scottish National Party has said the UK government must bring Personal Independence Payments “right back to the drawing board” after an independent report found a lack of public trust in the assessment for the benefit.

Among the key conclusions of the Second Independent Review of the Personal Independence Payment Assessment report is that “public trust in the fairness and consistency of PIP decisions is not currently being achieved, with high levels of disputed award decisions, many of them overturned at appeal”.

On Wednesday, MPs were granted an emergency debate on recently announced changes to PIPs, which largely impact those with mental ill-health conditions after UK Ministers refused to allow a vote on “emergency legislation” introduced to tighten the criteria for the payment.

Corri Wilson MP, the SNP’s Disability spokesperson at Westminster, said: “This independent report into the UK government’s Personal Independence Payment system is a damning indictment of the Tories’ social security policies which are continuing to erode public confidence in assessment for the benefit.

“The fact that claimants have expressed a complete lack of confidence in the ability of health professionals to accurately record what is said during their assessments, as well as the 65% rate overturned initial decisions on appeal, is completely unacceptable.

“This shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with the approach being taken by the UK Government.

“The Tories have just railroaded through changes to PIP, which amounts to a cut to awards and will particularly impact those with mental ill-health conditions, with no consultation or parliamentary scrutiny. It is disgraceful that this legislation was forced through when it is now clear that there is already a total lack of trust in PIP assessments.

“The UK Government’s approach to disability support is failing those who need our help the most.

“They must listen to claimants and disability rights groups and take PIP back to the drawing board, to ensure disabled people receive the proper and adequate provision they need to live as independently as possible.”

Photo credit: Knox O (Wasi Daniju) via photopin cc

Paul Gray, the report’s author and chairman of the Social Security Advisory Committee, said: “Public trust in the fairness and consistency of PIP decisions is not currently being achieved, with high levels of disputed award decisions, many of them overturned at appeal.

“My findings point to the need to build very considerably on current action to improve the way PIP is administered.”

Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Gillian Guy added: “Anyone trying to get on with life while coping with a serious illness or disability deserves a quick and accurate experience when applying for personal independence payments (PIP).

“PIP is the single biggest advice issue people turn to Citizens Advice about and in the last 12 months we helped with almost 400,000 PIP problems.

“While some parts of the system have got better – such as a reduction in waiting times – we are concerned there is still a way to go in terms of improving the quality and accuracy of the PIP application and assessment process.

“It’s good to see the review recognises the need to improve the system around additional evidence which people can submit when they apply for PIP. Many currently find this confusing and don’t know what to send in. It can also take a lot of time and money to get the evidence you need, like a note from the GP.

“It’s vital the the government pays close attention to the issues highlighted by this review and takes meaningful action to tackle the ongoing flaws with the PIP process which stop people getting the help they need to live their lives.”