On 9 May we met with Justin Tomlinson the new Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work to discuss ideas for making the benefits system fairer for people with Parkinson's.
Over the last few months the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd, has been meeting with charities supporting people with long-term conditions, to discuss ideas for improving Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit. Joining her at the most recent meeting was Justin Tomlinson, the new Minister.
Before the meeting, Parkinson's UK shared the issues we'd like to discuss – the 2 areas we feel are most in need of improvement were Mandatory Reconsiderations and medical assessments.
Problems with the system
If you are not happy with the decision you have been given by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Mandatory Reconsideration is the first stage of challenging it.
Currently Mandatory Reconsiderations are failing disabled people. Almost three-quarters of PIP and ESA decisions made at the Mandatory Reconsideration stage are overturned once they are heard by a tribunal.
Medical assessments are another area of concern for people with Parkinson's. These are currently carried out by ATOS, Capita and Maximus, depending on which benefit you are applying for. We frequently hear people with Parkinson's have not been treated well, their condition has not been understood and there are major concerns about the accuracy of the reports.
listening to suggestions
During the meeting we were able to suggest changes that would improve both Mandatory Reconsiderations and medical assessments.
2 of the changes we suggested were:
- Send a copy of the medical assessment report to everyone without having to request a copy.
- Allow people going through Mandatory Reconsideration to talk to the person making the decision.
Justin Tomlinson seemed interested in both of these suggestions, and was surprised that people weren't already receiving a copy of their medical assessment report as standard. He has agreed to investigate our suggestions and share any progress with us.
Parkinson's UK Senior Policy and Campaigns Adviser Michael Griffin commented:
"It's great that the Secretary of State and Minister for Disabled People are listening to charities like Parkinson's UK. The failings in the assessment process will only get worse, unless changes are made.
"If they act on our suggestions people with Parkinson's could see a real improvement in how they navigate and experience the benefits system.
"But a few quick fixes won’t solve everything. Currently, the average wait to get to a tribunal hearing is 29 weeks.
"This is something we want to change, and Parkinson's UK will be campaigning to reduce these waiting times, so people with Parkinson's do not have to face the loss of income and stress caused by such long delays."
CAMPAIGN WITH US TO FIX PIP
If you have had to wait a long time to have your PIP appeal heard by a Tribunal and want to share your experience with us, please email [email protected] or call 020 7963 9349.
QUESTIONS ABOUT BENEFITS
Our helpline and local advisers are here to answer any questions you have about Parkinson's, including accessing benefits and support.