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NIPSO ‘Follow Up Report’

Law Centre NI has welcomed the publication of the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman’s (NIPSO) ‘Follow Up Report’ on Personal Independence Payment (PIP), ‘PIP and the Value of Further Evidence’, published recently. The report details the progress made on recommendations arising from NIPSO’s first ‘Own Initiative Investigation’ in 2021, which found systemic failings in the delivery of PIP.

Law Centre NI provides social security advice and tribunal representation to clients who are experiencing difficulty when claiming PIP. Our social security work also includes strategic litigation, involving legal test cases that raise important public interest issues.

Since the implementation of PIP in 2016, we have encountered a number of systemic issues affecting our clients. Through our legal and policy work we highlight issues and advocate for change. We have first-hand experience of how distressing it can be for our clients navigating an appeal of a PIP decision and we are acutely aware how refusal can leave people without an income for a long period of time. Getting decisions right and having the best, effective service is vital, particularly with the current backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis.

The report welcomes the considerable action taken by the Department for Communities (DfC) to implement recommendations from the initial report in 2021, however highlights that further work is required to progress implementation and deliver much-needed improvements.

At a glance, the report revealed:

Of the 33 recommendations made in 2021:

  • 10 recommendations were fully implemented;
  • 18 were partially implemented and are still being worked on;
  • 5 were not implemented and have not yet been agreed by the Department.

Whilst there have been positive steps taken in addressing the systemic maladministration in the PIP system, it is essential that implementation of the remaining outstanding recommendations must be progressed. Law Centre NI welcomes NIPSO’s commitment to continued communication with DfC.

We look forward to hearing from NIPSO at our next Social Security Adviser Network Meeting later this month to hear more about their report and progress to date.