I was elected to this House in April 2019 and, like many colleagues, I have spent many hours working and supporting residents in their engagement with the Department for Work and Pensions, and it has not always been easy. In fact, more often than not, many of my constituents have been pushed to the brink. I and other colleagues are exasperated by the failure to get answers and leadership from the Government. Every Member here will have stories of widespread dither and delay.
Disability campaigners have long voiced concerns about benefit assessment processes. In February 2018, a Work and Pensions Committee report found that failings in the end-to-end processes for both PIP and ESA had contributed to a lack of trust in both of those benefits, and undermined confidence among claimants, including my constituents in Newport West. The very helpful House of Commons Library report made it clear that the DWP Committee report made a series of recommendations, covering, among other things, the recording of assessments; the supply and use of evidence; the clarity of communications; guidance in relation to home assessments; and the role of companions. Can the Minister provide an update on those specific recommendations? If that cannot happen here, I would be grateful for a written update.
Like many in Newport West and, I suspect, across the country, I am concerned about the fact that the Government have failed to consult properly disabled people and the organisations that support them. Those non-governmental organisations have excellent, practical ideas for sorting out the current issues, and I ask the Minister to work with them going forward.
We know the impact that covid has had over the past 18 months. Serious questions remain about how adequate the funding is and how serious the Government are about standing up and delivering for disabled people. Will the Minister focus specifically on the impact on severely disabled people, in particular those on legacy benefits, and on how their needs tie into the Government’s health and disability Green Paper?
According to Scope’s report, “The Disability Price Tag”, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s annual “UK Poverty” report, being disabled puts people at higher risk of poverty: 31% of the 13 million people with disabilities in the UK live in poverty. The assessment processes do not work. Disabled people have been among the hardest hit over the past two years. There remains no strategy to properly improve the support on offer to disabled people. We have much to do. I hope that the Government start to listen and learn.