SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone has urged the
Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities to intervene urgently
to address serious concerns about the operation of the new Personal
Independence Payments regime and the treatment of claimants by some
assessors with limited medical training. Mr McGlone was part of an SDLP
delegation which met with senior officials at the Department for
He also attended a further meeting
with senior representatives of Capita, the private company contracted to
carry out assessments, this week at which similar concerns were expressed.
Prior to meeting the Department and
Capita, the SDLP last week arranged a meeting with a number of advice
agencies, including specialist disability advice groups.
Patsy McGlone said, “At the request of
the SDLP, we met with the Permanent Secretary to outline our very serious
concerns about the operation of the new PIP regime after hearing stories
from claimants who had been left feeling degraded and humiliated by the
“Deaf claimants asked to face a wall
as assessors call their name. Those with complex mental health issues having
their appointments cancelled at the last minute. Individuals with
progressive neurological conditions, assessed by staff with no medical
training relating to these complex conditions. These are nightmare stories
from vulnerable people in need of support. We are hearing these stories from
constituents attending our offices here locally in Mid-Ulster.
“We asked the Permanent Secretary to
instigate an urgent review of the PIP assessment process, to issue a
communiqué to Capita instructing assessors to treat claimants with dignity
and to give urgent consideration to the development of guidelines for people
with severe disabilities to be exempted from assessment - the Department has
recently adopted that approach for ESA (Employment and Support Allowance).
“This new regime is causing severe
stress to those most in need of support - with some 125,000 people being
transferred from DLA to PIP. The least people deserve is to be treated with
dignity and respect throughout the process.
“We have also met with senior
management of Capita this week. They were left in no doubt by the SDLP
representatives that change to the assessment process is needed and that we
will not let up to ensure that the most vulnerable - mentally and physically
in our society - are treated with the dignity they deserve."