Every day we’re reading about terribly sick and disabled people dying / having to fight for financial help because of the cruel and punitive PIP system, brought to us by the ConDem coalition in 2013.
Many are familiar with the sad story of Stephen Smith, a very poorly, extremely emaciated man, refused PIP, who sadly died fighting the decision. His photo will stay with us all.
One of our own, Big Ron Stevenson, who had Motor Neurone Disease, a terrible, degenerative illness, for which there is no cure, spent his last days fighting to stop people with his condition being harassed by the DWP, and he sadly died just a few days ago.
This system has seen a 43% increase in suicide attempts by people being put through this process. It costs £1.5 billion more to implement than it would if people were given the help they so badly need.
As someone who suffers from bipolar disorder and has a degenerative back disease, I know this system too well. I was a nurse for 20+ years until I became sick with bipolar disorder, and in recent years with terrible back pain. I used to receive DLA but was moved to PIP and was awarded zero points, having been on a higher care rate. This led to me being left with £62 a week to survive on, as when you lose PIP, you also lose other benefits. I’m fortunate to have recently won my appeal, but it’s been a terrible time.
The appeal system is awful too. The first stage is a Mandatory Reconsideration stage, which takes up to 10 weeks, and is done by the DWP, thus only around 18% of people are successful.
Next is a Tribunal Stage, which can take many months, even years, and which has a success rate of 71%.
The whole system is stacked against people who are sick and disabled, and 4/10 do not appeal because it’s simply too stressful, and are left in absolute poverty as a result.
As a “civilised” country we should not be treating our most vulnerable people like this. At their expense, the private firms, Atos, Capita, etc., are making a fortune. The people carrying out the assessments are often not qualified to do so. They only undergo a few weeks training, and although many are qualified to do jobs such as physiotherapists and paramedics (wonderful jobs, please don’t get me wrong), are they really qualified to assess chronically sick people and people with chronic psychiatric conditions?
This Government has admitted that 8,000 people have died while waiting on the outcome of PIP appeals; this figure is most definitely on the low side.
We, as a country, must stop this appalling treatment of our sick and disabled. It has no place in a civilised society. Labour have pledged to overhaul the whole system, and to rid us of grasping profiteers making a fortune out of our misfortune. They will end the unspeakably cruel PIP assessment and replace it with a much more humane system. They will stop the hounding of terminally ill people, who should not be spending their last days in poverty.
Yet another reason, if any were needed, for us to get behind Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. For the many not the few.