About 200,000 people face seeing their claims for a disability benefit to help with daily living and mobility refused this year, new figures obtained by Labour suggest.
Senior MPs have called on the government to explain an apparent spike in people being turned down for personal independence payment (PIP), which is a top-up benefit with two components related to the extra costs of daily living and limited mobility for disabled people.
Figures obtained by Angela Eagle, the former work and pensions minister, showed that 83,000 people assessed for their eligibility had been given zero scores for both components in the six months between April and October. That compares with 93,000 given a zero score for both components in the previous 12 months.
Overall, 134,000 people were awarded zero scores for one or both components in the six-month period to October, suggesting the total figure for 2016-17 will pass 200,000.
An analysis by Press Association suggested the rate of zero scores would increase to 14% this year from 13% last year and 8% the year before.
“It’s a trend we’ve noticed about people, from usually passing the PIP criteria or disability living allowance [DLA, its predecessor benefit] criteria to getting fewer points even though they’ve got chronic conditions that are worsening,” Eagle said.
“In the last few weeks, there’s definitely been a spike of people getting zero. The only way that this makes sense is if a whole load of people got DLA without deserving it, but that’s never been my experience of DLA.”
Debbie Abrahams, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “The increasing numbers of zero points assessments raise real concerns about the accuracy of the assessment process, as do the thousands upon thousands of wrong decisions that are overturned at mandatory reconsideration and in the courts.”
It comes at at time when ministers are under pressure over the number of PIP decisions that are overturned on appeal, with about 65% of rulings reversed at an independent tribunal.
This compares with 18% of those being overturned at mandatory reconsideration, a system run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that claimants must go through before appealing to a tribunal. More than 160,000 people initially denied PIP have had the decision overturned since the benefit launched in 2013, according to Department for Work and Pensions figures.
The DWP said it was “completely unfounded” to suggest there was any crackdown that was leading more people to be awarded zero scores at their assessments. It said there were more people being given higher awards of the PIP than under the old system.
“In fact, 27% of claimants are now receiving the highest rate of support under PIP, compared with just 15% under the outdated DLA,” a spokeswoman said.
“Assessments are carried out by qualified health professionals and decisions are made based on information provided by the claimant and their GP.”
The assessments for PIP are carried out by the private companies Capita and Atos.
A Capita spokeswoman said: “Our assessors are healthcare professionals and are equipped with the knowledge, skills and training to understand how both physical and mental health challenges impact a claimant’s daily function. All assessments are carried out in line with the latest DWP guidelines, and the decision to award a benefit is made by DWP.”
A spokesman for Atos said: “All decisions on awarding benefits are made by the DWP.”
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