Citizens Advice services in East Sussex today published their report on the experiences of their clients claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – benefits aimed at supporting those living with disabilities and long term health conditions
Our clients’ experience shows a system that is simply not fit for purpose – medical assessment processes that can humiliate and prejudge, delays of over a year in resolving claims and processes that seem almost designed to make applicants give up. In short when a claim for PIP or ESA goes wrong, the time it takes to resolve it and the impact on clients, who by virtue of their health or disability are in need of additional support, are more significant than for any other benefit.
Kay Birch, Chief Executive of Wealden Citizens Advice said:
“The treatment some of our clients have experienced is truly shocking. Medical assessors completing assessments before they have even seen the client; a housebound client relying on oxygen being expected to travel to his assessment centre on public transport carrying an oxygen cylinder with him; clients who have been in receipt of support for long term conditions for years suddenly cut off and the resulting appeals taking 15 to 16 months to be resolved. Without the ongoing support of local Food Banks, many of our clients would not have been able to cope.”
Alan Bruzon, Manager of Eastbourne CAB added: “The system for PIP and ESA is broken. Seven out of ten appeals are upheld which shows that the processes for assessing need are simply not working. Not only is this hugely distressing for those facing long delays in accessing the support to which they are entitled, but it is wasting a large amount of taxpayer’s money – £108.1m was spent on direct staffing costs alone for ESA and PIP appeals between October 2015 and 2018.”
The report proposes a number of recommendations, including:
- Simplifying the application process.
- Making the medical assessment process accessible, fair, delivered to quality standards by suitably trained assessors with the individual’s circumstances listened to.
- Tackling the excessive delay in the system.
- Tackling errors earlier so applicants do not have to go through a lengthy and stressful appeal process unnecessarily, at significant cost to the taxpayer.
The report has been sent to all MPs in the county and Citizens Advice services in East Sussex urge them to press for action to improve a system that is letting down the very people it is designed to support.