Away from the Olympics coverage on TV tonight (Monday 30 July), there are two programmes that may be worth a watch as they both deal with the current topic of benefits payments.
At 8.00 PM this evening, and based on undercover filming, reporter Jackie Long investigates the controversial processes used to assess whether sickness and disability benefit claimants should be declared fit for work.
At 8.30 PM, Panorama investigates the Government’s plans to end the so-called ‘sick note culture’ and its attempts to get millions of people off disability benefits and into work. Millions of pounds are being paid to private companies to assess sick and disabled claimants but is the system working? Or are the new tests wrongly victimising those who most deserve support?
In the event, both programmes were focussed on the new Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the drive by the Government to reduce the number of claimants seeking Incapacity Benefit. Both programmes highlighted the uncompromising nature of the Workplace Capability Assessment (WCA) conducted on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions by Atos. Undercover filming revealed the drive to mark down those seeking benefits and both programmes highlighted the level of tribunal claims that have arisen due to the nature of the assessments being undertaken. It was suggested that lessons have been learnt regarding the scope and application of the WCA but the level of tribunal claims would indicate that there is some way to go before the methodology and scope of the WCA is correctly focussed.
While the programmes focussed on ESA, they served to highlight the potential issues that may be faced by those currently claiming Disability Living Allowance. The assessment process for its replacement – Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – is currently the subject of ongoing consultation and the Limbless Association is actively involved in this process. It is hoped that the new assessment will be fairer in its application and more reasonable in its interpretation than the WCA would appear to be.
However, notwithstanding this, the need to be able to provide supporting information to back up a claim under the forthcoming PIP would appear to be more important than ever in the light of these programmes. This information would highlight the good day/bad day conditions resulting from socket fit and prosthesis use experienced by amputees and the impact on mobility that this has. Accordingly, we would strongly suggest that all our members should begin to record such information in the form of an evidential diary. We have consistently asked for such a diary to be included in any assessment undertaken as part of the assessment process for PIP.
While applicants may be asked for supporting information at the time of their assessment, we would suggest that short-term evidence may not carry sufficient weight. For this reason, it would be prudent in our view to be able to demonstrate the fluctuating nature of the problems experienced by amputees by providing data collated over a significant length of time.