Gazette column - 11/4/19

Imagine you’re very sick or disabled and unable to work so you’re entitled to financial support.

Imagine you’re required to prove you’re sick or disabled, which is fair, so go through the rigmarole of assessments.

 

Imagine how stressful the arbitrary tests are when you suspect private assessors are, and this wouldn’t be fair, trying to trip you up.

 

Then imagine the frustration and despair when, unfairly, you’re denied help when you most need it despite often years of grafting and paying tax and national insurance.

 

Too many decent people coming to see me every week don’t have to imagine these nightmares because it’s happening to them.

 

Personal Independence Payments or PIP is proving as terrible a disaster as Universal Credit or the equally despised bedroom tax.

 

Replacing the old Disability Living Allowance, awards of up to £141 a week are designed to get people out and about with 4,320 disabled people claiming in the parts of South Tyneside and Gateshead council areas covered by my Jarrow parliamentary constituency.

 

I’m hearing heartbreaking cases of wrongful rejections and successful appeals following months of challenging a misfiring bureaucratic system.

 

Nationally nearly three-in-every-four PIP appeals, 73% of the total, are won by the claimant.

 

For Employment Support Allowance the figures show 70% of people appealing against the denial of ESA are overturning the bad decisions of the assessors.

 

These rates are unacceptable and the firms Atos, Capita and Maximus paid handsomely to run the system aren’t up to the job and we should scrap the contracts, employing civil servants to do the work.

 

The people coming to see me were refused PIP or given a lower rate and I often hear complaints the process seemed more concerned about ticking boxes than considering their needs.

 

Appeals tribunals are there to sort out mistakes but the phenomenal number of initial decisions overturned would have alarm bells ringing in Whitehall if a tin-eared 

Conservative Government wasn’t adopting callousness as a policy.

 

In some cases the denial or withdrawal of benefit results in the loss of a car under the Motability scheme and it’s painful when the distressed person speaking to you is describing how they were taking away their vehicle.

 

Wicked Government cuts to disability benefits leave many teetering on the brink, fearing the loss of rented and mortgaged homes as well as cars.

 

We’re not talking here about people fiddling but genuine cases, men and women persecuted by a self-defeating Tory austerity ideology the Conservatives could’ve dreamed up as a particularly sadistic torture for people who deserve a helping hand but instead receive a kick in the teeth.

 

People who suffer a disability should never suffer twice over just because the Tories want to slash spending to fund tax handouts for their party’s undeserving, fabulously wealthy donors.

 

Or the Tories disgracefully try to divide and rule by turning the working poor against the non-working poor, the fit against the sick and disabled.

 

How immoral of the Conservatives to give to the rich and take from the poor when there aren’t enough super yachts in the world for the richest to squander all their loot.

 

Meet your MP

 Stephen-Hepburn-MP

Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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