Millions of pounds are being wasted on reassessing people with Parkinson’s for a benefit even though they will not get better.
Based on analysis by Parkinson’s UK, the charity has estimated that to reassess everyone with Parkinson’s who received Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for the replacement benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will cost the taxpayer a shocking £3 million.
In addition, £1.3 million of this will be spent on reassessing people who were previously identified as having the highest level of need, failing to recognise that people with a progressive condition like Parkinson’s will not improve.
The charity says this is not only a massive waste of money, but it is having a devastating effect on people living with the condition as many are losing support they had for years.
People in more than 1,000 households in Wales are experiencing unnecessary distress and financial uncertainty because of the UK Government’s insistence on reassessing people with Parkinson’s for a disability benefit even though their health will not improve. Almost 600 of these 1,073 DLA recipients in Wales have previously been identified as having the highest level of need and many had been given a lifetime award of the benefit.
Ana Palazon, Wales Director at Parkinson’s UK, said: “Under PIP, people with Parkinson’s are being forced through a broken assessment process that fails to understand that they won’t get better. We’ve even heard of people with Parkinson’s being asked by assessors how long they expect to have Parkinson’s for.
“PIP is designed to help people manage the significant extra costs of their condition and stay independent, but a quarter of people with Parkinson’s have lost some or all of their award.
“As a result, people are having their cars taken away, losing their independence and seeing their health deteriorate. This is simply unacceptable.”
The charity claims that the flawed assessment process and mixed knowledge of assessors is leading to wrong outcomes for people and leading many to appeal. When people do appeal, Ministry of Justice figures show that 65 per cent of these decisions are being overturned.
Angela Bevan, 53 from Pembrokeshire, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2010. She was reassessed from DLA to PIP in 2016 and lost her award.
Angela explains: “When I received the letter saying I had lost my award it was horrendous. I couldn’t understand how I’d gone from receiving the high rate mobility component and middle rate care component of DLA to nothing! I remember it was a Friday and I cried the whole weekend. I felt that nobody believed me.”
“I went to tribunal in April 2017 to try to get the decision reversed. It was a terrifying experience, going into a court room, I felt like a criminal, I’d never been in that situation, I felt I’d done something wrong. Without the support of my husband and my Parkinson’s Local Adviser I wouldn’t have gone. I was just too stressed by the whole process and felt like giving up.”
Angela, who experiences severe dystonia as a part of her Parkinson’s goes on to explain: “Twenty minutes into proceedings I had an episode of dystonia and proceedings had to be halted as I left the court room supported by the doctor present.”
The tribunal reversed the decision and Angela was awarded enhanced rate of daily living and mobility.
“I had explained about the dystonia when I was reassessed from DLA to PIP but it wasn’t until my symptoms were visible to all at a tribunal that I was I believed.”
Now, with twelve months to go until the Department of Work and Pensions aims for PIP to be fully rolled-out, Parkinson’s UK is calling on the Government to automatically move people with Parkinson’s on the highest rate of DLA to PIP, without the need for reassessment.
Ana Palazon adds: “It is nonsensical that people living with an incurable, progressive condition should lose support they were previously told they would have for life.
“By automatically moving people with Parkinson’s on the highest rate of DLA to PIP, it would save money, time and most importantly, cut out the stress and uncertainty for people living with the condition.
“It is imperative the Government puts an end to these unnecessary reassessments now and stops throwing money at a system that is not fit for purpose.”
The charity has launched a petition calling on the Government to get a grip on PIP. Sign it here.