Earlier this month the Second Independent Review of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in Northern Ireland, commissioned by the Department for Communities, was published. PIP replaced Disability Living Allowance to provide extra money available to those who need additional help with everyday due to an illness, disability, or mental health condition. The Review makes 12 recommendations to improve it.
The first independent review was published in June 2018. It made 14 recommendations of which the Department accepted or partially accepted 10, and 4 were not accepted. This second review raised 3 of the rejected recommendations again following input from the individuals and organisations who provided evidence.
As the Independent Reviewer Marie Cavanagh said, “the process is often still difficult to navigate … the Assessment itself causes fear, anxiety, stress and frustration for many claimants”. Cavanagh also highlighted improvements that should be made when gathering evidence and in decision-making.
In addition, the Second Review upheld – and repeated – the previous recommendation that that the 6 months life expectancy criterion for Special Rules for Terminal Illness should be removed. Claimants who have fewer than six months to live can apply for special treatment which entitles them to receive benefits much quicker than normal. However, the need to prove that one has only six months to live has proven extremely problematic and Law Centre NI and many other organisations have called for this criterion to be removed.
Law Centre NI provided evidence to this Review, with both verbal and written submissions, from our Social Security Team. Priority areas for the Law Centre included, among other issues, the need to improve the experience of those claiming PIP (especially for those with more than one, or fluctuating conditions), ensuring that those carrying out assessments are suitably qualified in the relevant condition(s) and the need to ensure that medical information is not the only source of evidence relied upon to assess a person’s need. We also raised concern around the effectiveness of the complaints process.
In addition, Law Centre NI and Mencap produced a report on behalf of The All Party Group on Learning Disability (APGLD) which is cross-political and aims to promote issues facing people with a learning disability and influence policy, legislation and service development within Northern Ireland. The report outlines the findings from the APGLD research project into the experience people with learning disabilities had when in receipt of PIP. The paper makes 15 recommendations and is available here.
We now await the Department’s response to the Second Review. The Second Independent Review of PIP is available here.