‘Applying for disability benefits is flawed and is causing suffering’ says Portsmouth councillor 

A Portsmouth councillor has criticised the process of applying for disability benefits 'Picture posed by models / Shutterstock
A Portsmouth councillor has criticised the process of applying for disability benefits 'Picture posed by models / Shutterstock

THE 'flawed' benefits system for disabled people in Portsmouth is 'ruining lives', councillors have said.

At full council on TuesdayNOV13 the head of health, Cllr Matthew Winnington, is hoping to open up a discussion on the process to apply for two allowances believing them to be lengthy and humiliating.

Seconded by Charles Dickens representative, Cllr Claire Udy, Cllr Winnington hopes the council will lobby the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to review the application process for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Applicants for PIP and ESA nationwide have to undergo physical assessments to determine whether they are eligible for the funds.

But Cllr Winnington thought the system was not good enough. 'I worked for the DWP four years ago,' he said.

'So I have a huge breadth of knowledge and understanding of the process and how flawed it is. The people making the decisions don't know everything about the applicant. I have seen some decisions that have been unbelievable as a result.

'Really it should be for the applicants' doctors and medical professionals to make the decision but the information they give effectively ignored in most cases.

'People get put off because it's upsetting already and they don't know what to do. If you don't have a support worker or a friend who knows the system you're stuffed.

'I am really keen for us as a council to come together on this. No one should suffer because of this.'

Many applicants for the benefits are unsuccessful and have to appeal. In Portsmouth 53 per cent of ESA and 75 per cent of PIP appeals are successful. This totals up to £274,750 a year in additional costs.

Cllr Winnington added: 'It is flawed on both a human level and in terms of money. It's extremely wasteful.'

For Hilsea resident Jan Sissons, 63, the process of undergoing a PIP assessment in order to get a blue badge was too complicated. The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and arthritis sufferer last attempted to fill out the online form in March but had to give up. 'It is good news that the council might discuss this, I do appreciate people pushing for this,' she said.

'I don't see why the decision should be made by people who don't know you. Could they not go through your doctor for an assessment? If my doctor was to say I'm not ready for a blue badge then fine. But it would be a more informed decision.

'The problem with the application was that it was asking questions that weren't even relevant to me. I had to give up. I've heard stories about how difficult the assessment process is as well.'

If councillors agree to discuss the matter on Tuesday they will then vote on whether to write a letter to the DWP.