Disabled people struggling to claim benefits, warn Sheffield charities

Sheffield Mencap support workers Kirsty Worstenholm and Cathy Oliver say people are struggling with PIP benefits
Sheffield Mencap support workers Kirsty Worstenholm and Cathy Oliver say people are struggling with PIP benefits

Sheffield charities say disabled people are struggling to cope with changes to their benefits – with some losing their money.

People who used to receive a disability benefit now have to apply for the new Personal Independence Payments (PIP). The Department for Work and Pensions is reviewing every claim – a total of 1.6 million claims nationwide.

But two Sheffield charities say people often don’t realise they have to reapply. Some can’t understand the application forms while others don’t know that they can appeal if their benefit is cut.

Sheffield Mencap and Gateway and S2 Food Bank are both helping people navigate the benefits process

Sheffield Mencap support worker Cathy Oliver has seen an increase in problems with PIP.

She said: “The benefits system has changed from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Allowance and people haven’t just transferred, they have had to reapply completely.

“The biggest problem for families is they are facing cuts with social care budgets and at the same time there are these changes to the benefits system.

“People have lost benefits they previously claimed because they are trying to navigate changes to the system. People who have disabilities may not be filling in forms thoroughly and if they have elderly carers, the paperwork can become very difficult

“There are people with lifelong learning disabilities from birth, with conditions that are not going to improve, who have had to reapply. People with very severe disabilities in wheelchairs with no speech have had to do a PIP form and prove they are disabled.

“We try to keep things functioning for people and let them know there is someone there for them. It’s very hard for people to keep on top of and there is a lot of pressure on vulnerable people who are trying to cope with circumstances out of their control.”

Sue Rose, volunteer coordinator with social enterprise Green Estate, helps out at the S2 Food Bank on the Manor. She says a lot of people are struggling with their benefits.

She said: “A lot of people are being thrown by the changes to PIP. People don’t realise they can appeal if they are thrown off PIP because they don’t know the process.

“The Citizen’s Advice is swamped with caseloads but we have a Citizen’s Advice worker and they are winning nine out of ten cases where someone has appealed.”

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesman said: “PIP is a fairer benefit, which takes a much wider look at the way someone’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis. Under PIP, a higher proportion of people get the highest possible award than under DLA, including those with a mental health condition. Meanwhile, people with the most severe, lifelong conditions do not have to attend regular reviews.

“We understand some people need extra support with their claim. Help can be provided with PIP applications and assessments can be arranged at home for those who cannot travel to a centre.

“The PIP assessment criteria were designed in consultation with healthcare professionals and disability organisations, including Mencap, and we work closely with them to ensure that PIP is working in the best way possible.”