Britain’s welfare system is failing the most vulnerable in society according to Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Hastings Peter Chowney who says a report just published by East Sussex Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) proves the point.
Speaking in the wake of the publication of the report called It’s Just Not Fair, Mr Chowney says many of the examples it gives are a, ‘shameful disgrace’ and confirm, he says, ‘the absence of compassion this government shows to vulnerable people.”
The report was prepared by the CAB based on the experiences of their clients claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA). One of its conclusions is that the government’s welfare system is, ‘simply not fit for purpose’ and is ‘humiliating’ for claimants.
This report comes at the same time as other charities are saying that the latest reforms announced by Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Conservative MP for Hastings & Rye, will leave millions stuck in a failing system.
The CAB report, out this week, says they know of delays of over a year in resolving claims for those on Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) benefits.
The report has been sent to all MPs in the county and Citizens Advice services in East Sussex urging them to press for action to improve the system.
Kay Birch, Chief Executive of Wealden Citizens Advice said: “The treatment some of our clients have experienced is truly shocking.
“Medical assessors complete assessments before they have even seen the client and a housebound client relying on oxygen was expected to travel to his assessment centre on public transport carrying an oxygen cylinder with him.
“Without the ongoing support of local food banks, many of our clients would not have been able to cope.”
Alan Bruzon, Manager of Eastbourne CAB added: “The system for PIP and ESA is broken. Seven out of ten appeals are upheld, which shows that the processes for assessing need are simply not working.”
The appeals were not only ‘hugely distressing’ he said, but costly for the taxpayer: £108.1m was spent on direct staffing costs alone for ESA and PIP appeals between October 2015 and 2018.
Mr Chowney says: “The report is a damning indictment of the way our welfare system is failing the most vulnerable in our society, in the Secretary of State for Work and Pension’s own constituency.
“Many of us have been aware for a long time of the appalling treatment inflicted on PIP and ESA claimants, and strategies used to limit the amount of money they receive, leaving them insufficient to live on and having to resort to food banks.
“The examples given in this report are a shameful disgrace, and simply confirm the absence of compassion this government shows to vulnerable people, in order to pursue its cruel and unnecessary austerity strategies.”
Along with charities, Labour says the way Universal Credit, PIP and ESA is administered is causing untold misery and Mr Chowney has called on Amber Rudd to ease the burden on claimants. He says, however, that the Work and Pensions Secretary is only ‘tinkering’ with the system.