The news comes in the wake of last months’ strongly worded report by the Work and Pensions Committee, that also found two thirds of cases to be flawed on appeal. The Support Services arm of The British Polio Fellowship has helped scores of members take appeals to court and so far, have never lost a case, although the numbers of people looking for help from the charity is still on the rise.
“Claiming and appealing benefits can be a complicated process and we always recommend members seek expert advice through the process,” said The British Polio Fellowship National Chairman, David Mitchell “We have taken on more staff to cope with demand. The DWP claim decisions are overturned because claimants submit more evidence on appeal, but in our experience, this is far from the whole story.”
David says people are easily confused by the forms and are inadvertently putting down wrong information. One example is applicants ignoring ‘pain and safety’ when indicating the distance they can walk unaided, which still causes confusion. People living with the effects of Post Polio Syndrome (PPS) use a range of mobility aids but tend not to give them due weight.
“Ordinary people are not technical experts and should not have to be,” added David. “Our older members push themselves through the pain barrier and don’t like to mention the fact, or how much they rely on aids. Many force themselves to manage basic distances – and don’t appreciate they are technically unable to compete the distance safely, repeatedly and reliably. Until assessors recognise these issues, people will need advice to fill in an honest and comprehensive application that a fair assessment can be based on.”
Those with PPS already face ignorance, when only seven percent have heard of a neurological condition with no cure and David and others at the charity believe 69 percent of decisions overturned is just the tip of a much bigger iceberg, with many not appealing out of a combination of pride and fear.
“Properly managed, PPS can progress more slowly and be less of a drain on the NHS but this PIP process does not help matters,” added David Mitchell. “We are helping members navigate the complexity of applications and supporting others appeal, but it would be nice to be able to deploy funds elsewhere rather than appealing flawed original assessments. Who could argue with the Work and Pensions Committee that the process needs “urgent change”? The disabled are being let down, and so is the taxpayer. Let’s hope we see a change for the better in the weeks and months ahead,” David concluded.
If you are one of the 120,000 Polio survivors in the UK concerned with PIP applications, The British Polio Fellowship can help. Call 0800 043 1935, or visit www.britishpolio.org.uk