LibLink: Christine Jardine: All consuming Brexit is making this country a less caring place

Sarah Newton resigned as Disabilities Minister 3 weeks ago but she still hasn’t been replaced.

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine outlined why a new minister was needed and soon.

The Personal Independence Payments system is broken, she said, highlighting a local example:

Alexandra Mitchell from Cramond, has already highlighted the shortcomings. Born with a disability and entitled to a Motability car for years, she was mysteriously told she no longer qualified for the support, with no adequate reasoning behind the decision. Although we managed to have the decision overturned on appeal that, in itself, is not good enough. Nor is it an isolated, or even unusual, incident.

That wasn’t the end of the story, though, for Alexandra:

I again raised the case of Alexandra Mitchell who has now been told that there is an ‘end date’ of her lifelong disability. Wow, who knew the department had such powers? That they could end disability at the stroke of a pen. They can’t. And to get to the bottom of why the department thought it could, I was due to have a meeting with the Minister for Disabilities in the very week she decided that she could no longer stomach her own Government’s approach to Brexit. Since then, there has been nobody in Government tasked with addressing those issues, of which there are so many, that myself and other MPs have been keen to raise. Fortunately I had also arranged a meeting with Amber Rudd, the current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to ask if she would consider changes to a Universal Credit system that has proven not fit for purpose. Again Brexit, as ever, intervened and foreshortened our meeting, but not before I had grasped the opportunity to confront the Secretary of State with the problem. To be fair, she asked me to send details of Alexandra’s case directly to her and I have.

Christine highlighted the ridiculous amount of money that the Government spends on holding appeals, most of which are upheld:

Between 2015 and 2016 (the latest figures available), the Government spent £103 million on holding appeal hearings over PIP and ESA assessment decisions. And that does not include the cost to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of defending them. What is worse is that two thirds of those cases were overturned in favour of those who were appealing – individuals who had been put through often months of stress, expense and fear that they might lose vital benefits.

It already costs people with disabilities an estimated £583 a month more on average for basic living expenses than other members of society. One in five can face extra costs of more than £1,000 a month, depending on the condition they are dealing with. And families with a child with a disability can face extra living costs of £581 a month. To decide that appointing a replacement minister to look after the interests of everyone affected can wait is astounding.

You can read the whole article here. 

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