We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers – unsurprisingly they don’t always reflect the views of this publication. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch and of course, your considered comments are welcome below. This from Diana Conyers. Ed
Thank you for publishing an article on 18 December about the number of people on the Isle of Wight who have lost their disability benefits when transferring from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
While the problems with Universal Credit have been relatively well documented in the media, very little attention has been given to the equally disturbing situation with regard to disability benefits.
Claims reviewed and payments reduced
It is not only those transferring from DLA to PIP that have had their benefits cut. Many people already receiving PIP have had their claims reviewed and, as a result, their payments have either been reduced or stopped altogether.
And the situation is similar for those claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the out-of-work benefit (now being incorporated into Universal Credit) previously claimed by those unable to work due to ill-health.
12 month wait for appeals
As your article suggests, the cuts in these benefits seldom bear any relation to changes in the claimant’s health and, more often than not, the decisions are reversed when the case is taken to appeal.
However, because of the large number of appeals, claimants now have to wait at least a year for their case to be heard. Those appealing against PIP decisions receive no money during the waiting period, while those appealing against ESA decisions are often forced to transfer to Universal Credit to make ends meet.
Stressful and humiliating
Moreover, as your article also points out, it is not only the financial loss to claimants. The processes of review and appeal are stressful and humiliating. Claimants are treated as second class citizens and have to fight for benefits that should be a right not a privilege.
This in turn exacerbates their health problems, especially those with mental health issues.
A sad state of affairs
When one combines these cuts in national government benefits with those already made or about to be made by the NHS and Isle of Wight Council – cutbacks in mental health and substance abuse services, reductions in council tax support, abolition of funding for cross-Solent travel and the Law Centre, and closure of the Local Area Coordination service – what hope is there for the large numbers of vulnerable people on the Island?
It is a sad state of affairs.