The government want to change the way disabled people can appeal rejections and claim their benefits. The main change is holding the appeals over the telephone, on a webcam or even by reading submitted paperwork. The other worrying change is replacing a judge with a clerk or solicitor with no experience in disability law.
Moving the process out of the courts to a decision made by a clerk or retired lawyer is dangerous as they don’t have experience making fair decisions in this area. The clerk would also be given performance indicators likely to contain targets for how many people should be rejected. This makes the process more biased against the disabled person.
If the changes go through, disabled people would only have their case heard through a virtual court or by submitting evidence on paper. This makes it much harder for disabled people to give detailed and persuasive evidence and for the clerk, to see how their disability affects their ability to work.
When assessments for benefits are wrong, disabled peoples’ lives are turned upside-down. It put my family through months of stress and uncertainty.
I was assessed as being fit to work although my condition means I can’t stand without help. But thanks to the appeals process in court, I won back benefits that were vital for my family’s survival. If I had gone through the new process I might not have got the benefits I am entitled to and rely on.
For many disabled people receiving benefits can be a matter of life or death. The appeals process currently works for lots of people – these changes will prevent disabled people like me from fairly challenging assessments about a person’s ability to work.
I count myself as lucky – I won my appeal and now as a family, we’ve managed to keep our heads above water financially. I worry about everyone else that might be wrongly assessed though, and what the proposed changes will mean for them. Everyone deserves a fair, legal hearing.
The government are currently consulting on the changes so it’s important we make our voices heard.