Wrong decisions on disability benefits overturned every minute of the working day, campaigners say

·3-min read

A wrong decision regarding disability benefits is overturned every minute of the working day, a charity has said as it calls for claimants to have access to a specialist assessor.

Scope said thousands of disabled people are fighting to access the main disability benefit, Personal Independence Payment (PIP), with more than 12,000 successfully appealing incorrect decisions every month.

PIP can help people with extra living costs associated with their long-term condition and is split into two parts: mobility and daily living.

Applicants who are unhappy with a decision about access to the benefit can appeal through mandatory reconsideration, where a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) adviser re-visits the case and decides if the outcome should be changed.

If it is not changed, they can then appeal at a tribunal that is independent from the DWP.

Scope analysed government data on mandatory reconsiderations and tribunals and found more than 12,000 decisions made about PIP access are being overturned every month.

Between July 2019 and June 2021, on average there have been 12,579 successful appeals every month - the same as 1.3 decisions per minute of the working week, based on five eight-hour days.

In light of its findings, the charity is calling for disabled people to have the option to request a specialist assessor to examine their case when they apply for benefits through the DWP, and for the government to make sure the right decision is made the first time around.

The campaign, called Disability Benefits Without The Fight, has already been backed by more than 10,000 people.

Carol Vickers, from Leeds, has multiple health conditions, including connective tissue disorder, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), and osteoarthritis, which make walking painful.

Following her most recent reassessment, the 44-year-old was told she could no longer receive the mobility element of PIP as well as the daily living portion.

She said her assessor had appeared to think pain was not a factor and had produced a "wildly inaccurate" report, so she challenged the decision, which proved unsuccessful.

However, she chose not to proceed to appeal at tribunal because she felt exhausted and distressed by the process.

She said: "It would have really helped having an assessor who understands my conditions.

"The assessment feels like you're being interrogated and they're trying to catch you out.

"And that's incredibly distressing when you're somebody who's proud that they try so hard to overcome all the barriers they face on a daily basis.

"The whole system makes me anxious, makes me worry for my future security, and makes me feel like a lesser human."

James Taylor, executive director of strategy at Scope, said the system leaves disabled people facing months of "unbearable stress" and anxiety over not being believed.

He said: "These wrong decisions throw a person's life into turmoil. Having to fight for financial support puts a huge toll on disabled people's mental and physical health and can plunge families into poverty.

"Disabled people are being systematically failed. The benefits system should work for disabled people, not against them.

"The system is getting it wrong far too many times."

He added that millions of pounds are being spent on correcting wrong decisions, with figures obtained by The Independent showing the government spent more than £12 million on disability benefits appeals for PIP and Employment Support Allowance between 2017 and 2019.

The DWP said it gets the decision right for the majority of PIP claims, and that all healthcare professionals employed by assessment providers are trained in evaluating how someone's condition affects their daily life.

It added that of 4.4 million initial decisions between April 2013 and March 2021, 9% had been appealed and 5% overturned at tribunal.

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