A disabled man has slammed the Tory Government’s welfare system for treating vulnerable people “more like cattle” than individual human beings, after successfully navigating his third battle against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in six years.
Graham Duncan has been twice denied Personal Independence Payments (PIP), and on one occassion was also refused Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), despite being unable to work due to severe epilepsy.
The cruel decisions meant his PIP payments were slashed by £250-a-month following flawed face-to-face assessments, whilst his ESA worth £124 a month was also stopped on another occassion.
The 29-year-old feared he would be left without the means to support himself until Stoke on Trent Live took up his latest case, resulting in his benefits being reinstated by the DWP within only a few hours.
According to the DWP, the decision to reinstate his benefits was taken following submission of “new medical evidence”, and Graham will not be required to prove his eligibility for benefits again until 2025. However, Graham disputes the DWP’s version of events.
Mr Duncan said: “To be quite honest, I’m still in shock. I was expecting I’d have to go to another tribunal, and I’d been told previously that I’d have to wait 52 weeks, as there wasn’t any room at court.
“I didn’t know how I would make it a year, I was thinking I’d have to start selling my electronic equipment to make ends meet. I’d already spent all my savings.
“But I still think PIP is a terrible system. Considering it’s meant to be a benefit for disabled people, the way they treat us is ridiculous.
“They seem to treat us more like cattle than individual human beings.”
According to the latest official statistics, a staggering 73% of PIP tribunal cases are overturned in favour of claimants, while around 72% of ESA cases taken to tribunal are also successful.
“They put too much weight on the assessments which might be carried out by people who do not have the right medical qualifications”, said Mr Duncan.
“The last time this happened, I asked Capita about my assessor’s medical background, and they said she was a midwife.
“I’m not sure a midwife is the best person to assess someone’s epilepsy.
“My case shows that if you’re claiming PIP and going through the same thing, you can fight it and there are people who will help you.”
He added: “I only have 30% movement in my shoulder, so I struggle to wash or even dress myself.
“I use the care component to pay a friend who I trust to do housework for me.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “PIP looks at the way an individual’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis and decisions are made using all the available evidence.
“Under PIP, 27% of those with epilepsy get the highest possible level of support compared to six per cent under the previous Disability Living Allowance.
“In November 2017 we updated our guidance, which increased entitlement for a number of claimants, particularly those with conditions such as epilepsy.
“We have now begun an administrative exercise to identify existing claimants who may be affected and may be entitled to more support under PIP.”