Belfast Telegraph

Benefits claimants 'left in the dark' over PIP benefit reforms: SDLP's Mallon

A Stormont department is leaving disabled and unwell benefit claimants in the dark- months after a report called for prompt action to reform the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) system, an MLA has said.

PIP was introduced in Northern Ireland in 2016 replacing disability living allowance. When it was introduced, the government said it would be a fairer system as it took a wider look at the way an individual's health conditions or disability impacts them on a daily basis.

However, after complaints about the process, an independent report was commissioned by the Department for Communities in June and 14 recommended changes to the PIP assessment processes were put forward.

SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon has said that more than two months on from the publication of the report, which was by Walter Radar, the department has not produced its response.

The North Belfast MLA said: “The Independent Report into the PIP assessment process published over two months ago made a number of important recommendations including audio-visual recordings of all assessments, the use of a fairer definition of terminal illness to treat terminally ill claimants with more dignity and respect, specialist training for assessors so they better understand the nature and impact of specific conditions, the creation of a list of conditions which qualify for a paper based review as opposed to stressful face to face assessments, and the removal of direct and cold questions about suicide and self-harm.

“It confirmed what many of us working to support claimants have known for some time.

"The PIP assessment process does not have the confidence and trust of claimants or the public.

"Two months on, despite several requests, we continue to be met with a wall of silence from the Department for Communities.

"This delay in issuing any response is doing nothing to build the trust, openness and transparency needed in the PIP process. It is leaving worried claimants in the dark.

“PIP claimants and the public need to hear from the Department. They deserve to know its response to each of the 14 recommendations and the timeframe for implementation without any further delay.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: “The Department for Communities are fully considering all of Mr Radar’s findings and will publish a response in the autumn.”

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