Tuesday 22 December 2015

Good news in theory, but will it translate into practice?

You may remember, three years ago when the Coalition were devising PIP, they kept banging on and on about how they had to do it because under DLA it was possible for people with incurable conditions to get DLA for an indefinite period. The concept of "incurable" might sound simple to normal people, but politicians believe in miracles and they couldn't accept that things like cerebral palsy, Down's Syndrome, osteogenesis imperfecta, spinal cord injuries, autism, and amputations are conditions for life.

So their plan for PIP was to waste taxpayers' money on continually reassessing us incurables every three years (and the related appeals when they wrongly refused us the support) just to make sure we hadn't had a successful trip to Lourdes.

But it seems like, somehow, some common sense has been snuck into the delivery of PIP. Very, very, quietly. There's been no big press releases declaring that, in this austere time, they've decided to bung a few less pounds to Atos/Capita for pointless continual assessments of people who'll never get any better. I read about it quite by chance.

The Freedom of Information website WhatDoTheyKnow has got a copy of the Decision Maker’s Reasoning Template User Guide. That guide is what the case managers/decision makers at the DWP use to, well, help them make decisions on a case.

If you scroll down to page 9 of the document you'll see the decision makers now have the option of offering an indefinite PIP award by typing "indef" into their box:

Image of some text saying 'You can enter 'Indef' or a number of years/ months, as appropriate. The 'Review
period' generates the 'Award end date' which will be indefinite or one year beyond the 'Review date'.'

And at the start of page 10:

Text with a blue header saying 'Review Period' and then the body of the text says 'The reasons for the review period selected will be generated automatically. For an indefinite award or an award of at least 11 years this will be: 'All awards must be reviewed, as your condition is unlikely to change I have selected the maximum possible review period.'

I double and triple checked the source of this a dozen times. It'd be so easy for hoaxers to knock up a falsified decision maker's guide and put it out there. But WhatDoTheyKnow is a reputable source. And I've Googled and Googled looking for any other info about indefinite PIP awards presuming there had to be a DWP press release out there somewhere. But if you Google "indefinite PIP awards" you'll just find pages and pages about the move of indefinite DLA claimants over to PIP.

Talking about this new piece of info with my Facebook friends: One of them pointed out that just because decision makers have the option of issuing an indefinite award, doesn't mean they actually will. And he's right; PIP was not designed with common sense in mind.

And just because our conditions will be lifelong and incurable, it doesn't mean that being eligible for PIP now means you'll still be eligible for PIP in a few years time given the government keep moving the goalposts. Right now they're running a consultation looking at removing PIP from people who use the money to pay for "aids and appliances" rather than human assistance. Because apparently in the tiny minds at the DWP; aids and appliances are totally free to buy, free to maintain, and free to replace when they wear out. (I would urge you all to complete the consultation by the deadline of 29 January 2016.)

The introduction of indefinite awards could be great news for disabled people with incurable conditions and great news for the taxpayer who'd otherwise be paying for pointless reassessments and appeals. But if the government at going to redraw the PIP qualifying criteria every 3 years in order to cut a bit more; they'll probably not bother issuing awards for longer than 3 years anyway.