Un­nec­es­sary and cruel tests must be halted. There has to be a bet­ter way

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - BY JAMES ADAMS DI­REC­TOR OF RNIB SCOT­LAND

For many dis­abled peo­ple, the Per­sonal In­de­pen­dence Pay­ment could hardly be more im­por­tant.

It helps sup­port the ev­ery­day qual­ity of life for peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties and the PIP as­sess­ment should be ex­pert and straight­for­ward.

That is why we are so con­cerned that blind and par­tially sighted peo­ple who have gone through the PIP ap­pli­ca­tion and as­sess­ment process have found it a dis­tress­ing and emo­tion­ally drain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Com­mon prob­lems in­clude a lack of un­der­stand­ing by as­ses­sors of sight loss; as­sess­ments which make ap­pli­cants feel as if they are not trusted; and the worry that if they aren’t trusted they will have vi­tal sup­port with­drawn.

Ap­pli­cants can ap­peal the de­ci­sion if their sup­port is with­drawn. How­ever the ap­peals process can take months, leav­ing them with­out sup­port and com­pound­ing stress.

Re­search by the Depart­ment for Work and Pen­sions found that 72% of ap­peals were suc­cess­ful.

This means that in 72% of such cases, the ap­pli­cant took a fi­nan­cial and emo­tional hit, un­nec­es­sar­ily, as they were not as­sessed ad­e­quately the first time round.

RNIB Scot­land wants to see as­sess­ments used only in cases where more in­for­ma­tion can use­fully be gained, for as­ses­sors to re­ceive more train­ing on dif­fer­ent sight con­di­tions, and for the ap­pli­ca­tion process to be re­viewed so that ap­pli­cants are asked ques­tions that are rel­e­vant to them.

In the case of sight loss, it is rare that an as­sess­ment will be able to tell you more than a doc­tor’s di­ag­no­sis or a cer­tifi­cate of reg­is­tra­tion of vis­ual im­pair­ment.

The ma­jor­ity of sight con­di­tions will not im­prove.

So it would only be ap­pro­pri­ate to as­sess some­one with the view of po­ten­tially giv­ing them more sup­port rather than re­mov­ing sup­port.

To make the sys­tem both more cost ef­fec­tive and less stress­ful for ap­pli­cants, we’re ask­ing the Govern­ment to re­think the PIP ap­pli­ca­tion process and in­tro­duce au­to­matic en­ti­tle­ment to benefits when the as­sessed con­di­tion is not go­ing to im­prove.

Un­til these changes are made, peo­ple will con­tinue to go through an of­ten dis­tress­ing process to get the nec­es­sary sup­port.

Ques­tions raised over ad­e­quacy of as­sess­ment

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