Parkinson’s UK has criticised the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and the coalition government, over “absurd” claims and statistics used by Iain Duncan Smith and his ministers to justify controversial reforms to disability benefit.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being replaced with Personal Independence Payment’s (PIP), which will include repeat face-to-face disability assessments for the majority of claimants, as part of widespread government cuts to welfare spending.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claimed that “more than 50% of decisions for Disability Living Allowance were made simply on the basis of a claim form alone, without any medical evidence”.
Parkinson’s UK complained to the UK Statistics Authority, claiming that the DWP were misusing statistics in order to “vindicate further welfare reforms”.
The complaint has been upheld by the UK Statistics Authority, who said that it would be more accurate to say that only 10% of decisions for DLA were made purely on the basis of a claim form alone.
Donna O’Brien, who submitted the complaint to the UK Statistics Authority on behalf of Parkinson’s UK, said:
“The Department of Work and Pensions has a long track record of misusing statistics when it comes to the benefits system, and it’s clear this was a tactic to vindicate further welfare cuts.
“People with Parkinson’s who claimed DLA have told us supporting medical evidence was crucial due to a woeful knowledge of the condition amongst assessors, and it is absurd that the Government was trying to imply that anyone going through the system had an easy ride.”
Tina Walker, 55, from Cornwall was diagnosed with Parkinson’s eight years ago. Her symptoms include dystonia, and mobility issues – when she’s stressed her symptoms get significantly worse. She had two face to face assessments where the doctor came to her house, and was awarded a lifetime DLA payment, but in the next couple of years she’s very worried about being reassessed for PIP and the anxiety is making her symptoms worse.
Tina Walker, says: “I’m not going to get better and it’s awful that they’re doing this. The whole PIP thing is a minefield, and their mobility rules really worry me. We’re only just managing to live day to day, only just manage to pay the groceries and the bills and we’ve got no safety net at all if we lose these benefits.
“It’s so scary. You get to the point where you think, why don’t they just put us up against the wall and shoot us. The whole system makes you feel as though it’s all fault – like you’re conning the Government out of money – even though you know how ill you are and you desperately need it.
“Mentally and physically it’s completely draining – my anxiety levels go as high as a kite when I’m anxious and my dystonia symptoms gets worse.”
Steve Ford, Chief Executive at Parkinson’s UK said:
“The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) seems to forget it is meant to be providing a service towards sick and disabled people in genuine need. Using misleading statistics to justify switching from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the shambolic Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is simply a mechanism to deny many people access to the benefits they desperately need.
“The PIP benefit is turning into a fiasco – more costly to administer and less efficient, worst of all causing unnecessarily stress and anxiety because of a nonsensical plan to reassess those with a progressive condition to see if they have recovered.
“The DWP has a long track record of misusing statistics when it comes to the benefits system, and it’s clear this was a tactic to vindicate further welfare cuts. People with Parkinson’s who claimed DLA have told us supporting medical evidence was crucial due to a woeful knowledge of the condition amongst assessors, and it is absurd that the Government was trying to imply that anyone going through the system had an easy ride.”
Parkinson’s affects 127,000 people in the UK and someone is diagnosed with the debilitating disease every hour. Parkinson’s UK say that one in twenty people are under the age of 40 when they are first diagnosed.