• Disability Benefits – public event

          Eastbourne Town Hall

          6th April 2017, 2pm to 4pm 

          Disability Benefits Event Photo Thanks to Ben Weisz

           

          Citizens Advice Eastbourne held a public event to discuss the impact of changes to the disability benefits system. Problems for people claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) have been the biggest subject the Bureau has dealt with in the past year with a 12% increase in PIP enquiries compared to the previous year.

          At the event, which was held at the Town Hall, people shared their stories, detailing the problems they had experienced when trying to apply for benefits or when being switched from Disability Living Allowance to PIP which had required them to make a new application. Many people told of financial hardship and increased stress which impacted on their mental health. Motability vehicles, essential for people to be mobile, had been lost when disability benefits were turned down, leaving some people housebound.

          Comments included:

          “You can’t see COPD, so therefore it is not taken as seriously as other illnesses.  I was diagnosed in 2013. I’ve had difficulties with both ESA and PIP and I’m waiting to Appeal the latter. This has all caused my extra stress and put me into financial difficulty. “

          “I must warn that people that have already been awarded the mobility part of PIP that it will all be affected by the change when they come to be reassessed”

          “We have written back to the DWP and asked them for a Mandatory Reconsideration to look at the decision again.  To date we have not had an answer”.

          “Regrettably, over the past two years, I’ve had my benefits sanctioned because I can’t always get out to give the Department for Work and Pensions the information they need.”

          The last tribunal was so awful it reduced me to tears. The anxiety over this process repeating itself is crippling”

           

          Alan Bruzon, CAB Manager, said “We need to raise awareness of this issue and challenge the negative stereotype which is perpetuated by TV and the national press which presents benefit claimants in a very unfavourable light.  We have helped hundreds of people whose lives are seriously affected by their illnesses and disabilities and they have had vital support removed. The benefits system is one which anyone, whether they are currently sick or not, may need to rely on in the future and we need it to be fair and effective.”

          The meeting came up with a list of things which need to change which included:

          • The assessments need to be fair and the individual’s circumstances listened to.
          • Assessors need to be properly trained and have understanding of the conditions the claimant has.
          • DWP to have time limits for replying to claimants throughout the process
          • Appeal decisions should be binding
          • Assessment interviews to be recorded / videod
          • Assessments to be held in accessible places
          • GP reports charges should be abolished
          • Make PIP forms easier to complete

          Citizens Advice Eastbourne will use the evidence collected as part of a campaign to make the benefit system fairer for everyone.

          The event was covered by BBC Sussex Radio and you can listen to two clips here:

          BBC Sussex Radio 6th April 2017 1.mp3

          BBC Sussex Radio 6th April 2017 2.mp3

          If you have had difficulties you can still contribute. Send us your story by email to surveys@eastbournecab.co.uk

          Or write to us at:

          Citizens Advice Eastbourne
          Unit 6 Highlight House,
          8 St Leonards Road,
          Eastbourne,
          BN21 3UH

           

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