House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
Work and Pensions Committee
Personal Independence Payment
MONDAY 21 January 2013
Esther McVey MP, Simon Dawson and Dr Bill Gunnyeon
Esther McVey: We have always said that [PIP] is a personalised benefit. Everybody will be assessed-not all then on a facetoface, as we have said, but everybody will be assessed and it is personalised. What we have also said about this benefit is that it is not about the condition; it is about how that condition affects the individual, and those are key to this benefit. It is how the barriers affect the individual, and how the barriers affect them having an independent life.
Q34 Sheila Gilmore: So the DWP will intend, when it sees people and keeps in touch with them, to help them find help and support. So that will be an integral part of what you are doing.
Esther McVey: When you are assessing people and you are meeting them for an hour, as these meetings would be, then you have an overview and you will engage in a conversation with that person and, yes, of course you will, in an hour’s conversation, be talking about different things within that-how best you can get support and help. Of course you do; anybody would do that.
This answer could possibly be believable were it actually based on the facts on the ground.
The whole thrust of the debate around ‘welfare reform’ is based on the Biopsychosocial model:
The biopsychosocial model (abbreviated “BPS”) is a general model or approach that posits that biological, psychological (which entails thoughts, emotions, and behaviors), and social factors, all play a significant role in human functioning in the context of disease or illness. Indeed, health is best understood in terms of a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors rather than purely in biological terms.
The problems are largely that the social factors are being ignored.
How much help is it to assess somebody as being fit for work and thus to immediately stop their benefits on the basis that they would be more mobile through the use of a wheelchair or other appliance EVEN WHEN THEY DO NOT ACTUALLY HAVE THE WHEELCHAIR OR APPLIANCE. Surely any system fit for purpose would provide the necessary equipment and any relevant training and support PRIOR to stopping benefits?
The problems however do not stop there because the system most definitely is NOT personalised.
Say the DWP exhibit the first glimpse of humanity in years and made the change such that they provide the mythical wheelchair to two people one living in the centre of an urban area with good transport, local hospital and support services etc. They could well be more independent than before and a reduction/ removal of benefits may be justifiable.
The second person in our example lives in a rural area, no public transport and the loss of benefits includes removal of MOTABILITY. Exactly how much ‘help’ have they received with their ‘personalised’ needs?
Q28 Jane Ellison: Could you confirm that 71% have never been reassessed?
Esther McVey: They are on a lifetime award. Our view on that is that some of them-50%-never had medical supporting evidence. What we are saying now is one of the positive things about PIP really is to look at a systematic review and, as we say, see how can we help, because our view is the very opposite way: if you have put these people on benefits for life, what are we doing as a society to help and enable those people? Yes, I appreciate some people’s conditions will not get better, and maybe some will get worse, but there is a percentage of people who will get better, and we have to be there for them in a very different way. How can we help them to progress, to take an active part in society?
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A LIFETIME AWARD – THERE ARE INDEFINITE AWARDS (this is one of IDSs most oft-repeated untruths) and these are subject to review whenever the DWP decides and thus there is no need to change the previous legislation.
We received a brief from the MS Society, who are very exercised by this change. They are incredibly exercised by this change. On Saturday I saw someone with MS, who was attending the same meeting as me. The disabled parking was 30 or 40 metres from the door. He got out of his car and walked with his walking stick. He stopped more than twice and was absolutely exhausted by the time he got into the meeting. By the criteria here, that means he would only get 10 points, because he can move more than 20 metres. Actually, he probably managed 50 metres and he could probably do more than 50 metres, but from his first step-
Dr Gunnyeon: Chair, can I clarify? The issue of safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner would become highly relevant here. You have identified the fact that not only did it take a while, but there is an issue about his being exhausted at the end of it. That is why that ability is so important throughout all of the descriptors. Somebody may be able to do it, but if they are then not able to do anything for the next few hours or are exhausted the next day, clearly they are not then considered able to do it and they would actually get the points.
How will an ATOS/CAPITA interviewer be able to judge this in a 30 minute tick-box exercise in an office?
The next statement however is absolutely kafkaesque.
Q64 Chair: Where does the measure start? If he could walk the first 30 metres comfortably and then struggle, would that mean he ends up not getting the enhanced rate? Is that right?
Dr Gunnyeon: If that is correct and there are no other factors around the safely, reliably and repeatedly, then yes, that would then be the case.
But both have to travel the same distance, both have the same reaction in terms of exhaustion and other symptoms the only time the second person would be in a different position medically, socially and in terms of independence would be if they were constantly require to travel between 20 and 30 metres; an obvious nonsense in the real world.
These are questions based on the uncorrected transcript and Ms McVey comes from the John Prescott school of English so it is often difficult to decipher what it is she is actually saying but the DWP incompetence remains as it has been for several years.