The minister for disabled people has refused to investigate why the number of disabled people whose disability benefits were stopped when they failed to return a vital form rose by more than 450 per cent in four years.
The figures, released earlier this month by Tom Pursglove (pictured), showed the number of personal independence payment (PIP) claims that were “disallowed” because the claimant failed to return the AR1 award review form rose by 461 per cent between 2017 and 2021.
Two Labour MPs then questioned him on the figures and asked what assessment he had made of the reason for the figures rising so sharply.
But in written answers to Marsha de Cordova and Vicky Foxcroft, Pursglove said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had carried out “no such assessment” because “we do not collect information on the causation of a failure to return the AR1 review forms”.
The figures released earlier this month showed that in 2017, just 7,500 PIP claims were “disallowed” because the claimant failed to return the AR1 award review form, but this had risen to 42,100 by 2021.
De Cordova had requested the figures following reports on the death of Laura Winham, who had her disability living allowance (DLA) stopped in 2016 after she failed to respond to requests to apply for the new PIP.
It is believed she died the following year, in November 2017, and at the time had access to just a handful of loose change. Her body was not discovered for more than three years.
Pursglove told de Cordova it would be too expensive to produce figures showing how many DLA and PIP disallowances there have been due to the PIP reassessment process.
But he did release figures showing how many PIP claims were “disallowed” due to non-return of the AR1 form (PDF), which is for claimants to describe “how your disability affects you” when their claim is reviewed.
Foxcroft said this week: “It is unacceptable that the DWP does not collect information on the reasons why people fail to return their AR1 PIP review forms.
“The sharp increase in the number of PIP claims being disallowed is very concerning. Ministers should be looking into it as a matter of urgency.
“A Labour government will be transparent with all data and reports to ensure we get things right.”
Pursglove has previously refused to say if he was alarmed by the PIP disallowance figures, particularly in the light of the death of Laura Winham, and has refused to provide an explanation for such a rapid increase.
DWP refused yesterday (Wednesday) to explain why Pursglove was showing no interest in investigating the reason for the increase in PIP disallowances.
Instead, it repeated the statement it delivered earlier this month.
A spokesperson said: “We support millions of people every year and our priority is they get the benefits to which they are entitled to as soon as possible, and to ensure they receive a supportive and compassionate service.
“For anyone with a disability or long-term health condition, there is a strong financial safety net, including statutory sick pay, employment and support allowance and universal credit.
“Only a small proportion of PIP claims are disallowed for non-return of the AR1 form and safeguards are in place to prevent vulnerable claimants’ claims falling out of payment.”
Laura Winham’s death was only the latest in a series of similar tragedies linked to DWP’s failings and policies.
The body of Sophia Yuferev, a talented artist who lived with significant mental distress, was discovered by police in her flat in Hornchurch, Essex, in November 2021, months after all her benefits had been removed by DWP.
Errol Graham starved to death in 2018, months after DWP wrongly stopped his out-of-work benefits, leaving him without any income. He weighed just four-and-a-half stone when his body was found by bailiffs who had knocked down his front door to evict him.
And Mark Wood starved to death in 2013 after DWP found him ineligible for employment and support allowance, even though he had never been able to cope with the demands of a job and his GP had said he was incapable of working.
DWP’s failings date back at least as far as the death of Timothy Finn, who starved to death in 1999. His benefits had been stopped automatically after he failed to respond to letters posted to him by the Benefits Agency.
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