A second independent review of Personal Independent Payments (PIP) reaffirms Epilepsy Action’s belief that the assessment process for PIP is flawed and needs urgent review and reform. PIP was introduced to improve the benefits system for the “most vulnerable people in our society”. Instead, it is a system that lacks consistency, has eroded trust and confidence among disabled people and causes stress and anxiety for those trying to seek support.
Epilepsy Action welcomes the recommendations in Paul Gray’s review, but believes they do not go far enough to make the system fair and accurate for people with epilepsy. The review found that “the vast majority of responses…were negative. Common concerns were that the process…was very stressful, too long and that the Health Professionals conducting the assessment were not adequately trained to understand their condition.”
Our own research reflects the findings of the review. Epilepsy Action has long felt that the PIP assessment process is failing people with epilepsy, causing them to lose out on an award that they may be entitled to. This could have a significant impact on their daily lives. Repeatedly, people with epilepsy are overlooked and excluded from this award. We believe the assessment process is ineffective and inadequate. It is unable to capture and reflect what it is to live with epilepsy.
Epilepsy Action is pleased the review highlights and recognises many of the issues that affect people with epilepsy, including how stressful the process of applying for PIP can be. This is particularly relevant to some people with epilepsy who can experience an increase in seizures due to stress. The review also recognises that for some people, providing further evidence could be difficult as they are not in regular contact with healthcare professionals. Epilepsy Action is aware this is a concern for people with epilepsy. We are concerned that the review found assessors were often disregarding further evidence provided by family members, friends and carers when assessing an individual. Many people with epilepsy rely on this evidence to support their claim.
Epilepsy Action agrees with the review that there is “inherent mistrust” of PIP and that solving this will be a challenge. The government’s recent decision to continue with changes, overruling Upper Tribunal rulings regarding PIP, does nothing to help solve this issue. Despite strong opposition and criticism from across Parliament, and disabled people and organisations that represent them, the government are ploughing ahead. They are imposing tighter rules on eligibility which, we believe, will penalise people with epilepsy causing them even more stress and anxiety. Epilepsy Action believes the government must stop these changes and uphold the ruling made by the Upper Tribunal.
We do not believe enough progress has been made in improving benefits assessment processes for people with fluctuating and/or hidden conditions, like epilepsy. Further review and reform of PIP is desperately needed to ensure people with epilepsy can be confident that the outcome is fair and accurate.