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Armstrong calls for a better way to assess people for benefits

Alliance Communities spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA has called on the Department for Communities to review its assessment process for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), branding them “degrading and dehumanising”.

Since the pandemic, face-to-face assessments for the benefit have been changed to telephone interviews. Strangford MLA Ms Armstrong said the change meant many aspects of the assessment process were now not taking place.

“Telephone assessments mean an assessor cannot see the person, which is a large part of the PIP assessment process, which can in turn lead to dehumanising questions and in many cases, a complete ignoring of mental health aspects of the interview,” she said.

“In 2019, a ruling by the Supreme Court confirmed people with mental health problems were being let down by the PIP scoring system. It is clear little has been done to improve the system. The Scottish Government has moved to a new Scottish adult disability payment, saying decisions on applications will be made using information from healthcare workers.

“Our PIP process is not fit for purpose. PIP is supposed to support independent living, yet the assessment process requires people to prove how unable they are to live independently. It is time for us to bring the assessment system back within public control and not use private companies who participate in degrading and dehumanising evaluations.”