Tony Lloyd, the Labour candidate for Rochdale, has received a response from Justin Tomlinson MP, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, regarding the closure of the Rochdale Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment centre at Rochdale Infirmary. PIP is the benefit which has replaced the Disability Living Allowance.
In his original letter Tony Lloyd, who has been Rochdale’s MP since 2017, wrote: “The closure of the assessment centre without providing an alternative location in Rochdale will have a severe impact on sick and disabled claimants who will have to travel outside of the borough to attend assessments.
“This can only add to the pervasive culture of mistrust which has exacerbated claimant anxiety, and the miserable effect this has on people who are trying to access much-needed support.”
In response, Justin Tomlinson MP said, “The Independent Assessment Services (IAS) have opened two new sites at Oldham and Bolton to deliver our assessments, and I must reaffirm that we do not expect claimants to travel for more than 90 minutes by public transport (single journey) to a consultation.
“However, this limit is an absolute maximum and for the majority of claimants, their journey will be less than this. If a claimant indicates that they are unfit to travel to or attend the assessment centre, then a taxi or a home visit may be necessary.”
Tony Lloyd said: “The Minister’s reply shows the DWP’s shocking disregard for disabled claimants.
“If you live in Littleborough and your assessment appointment is in Bolton, you will need to leave your home at around 08:00 and take two buses and three trains to get to Bolton for a 10amappointment. This is assuming that Northern Rail will be running their services on time with no delays, which is unlikely given a recent report by Transport for the North which found that Northern’s performance is worse than it was a year ago.
“I note that the Minister has said home visits are available, however, I know from practise this seldom happens because I’ve helped severely ill patients who have been denied these appointments.
“The Minister’s suggestion to use a taxi is absurd as a taxi journey from Littleborough to Bolton costs between £36-£49. Most people who apply for PIP and ESA are struggling to make ends meet, so it’s ludicrous to think they have this amount of money to spare on taxi fare.
“These assessment processes are not fit for purpose, and any trust that may have been held in the system has been completely undermined under the Conservatives.
“Instead of supporting people, the process is often dehumanising, inaccurate and worsens existing health conditions.
“The fact that the Conservatives in government are slow to put right its unlawful discrimination against disabled people is a disgrace.
“Labour will scrap the current PIP and ESA assessments and bring an end to the Conservatives’ failed privatised assessment system and replacing it with personalised, holistic support which provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether health, care, finance, skills, transport, or housing-related.”