Bishop of Peterborough supports move to find fairer mobility assessment criteria for disability benefit claimants

14.02 PeterboroughOn 4th May 2016 Baroness Thomas of Winchester put a Motion to the House of Lords: “That this House calls on Her Majesty’s Government to hold urgent talks with Disability Rights UK and the Disability Benefits Consortium to identify a mobility criterion in the Personal Independence Payment “moving around” assessment which is fairer than the current 20 metre distance, in the light of the impact on reassessed disabled claimants and the resulting large number of successful appeals.” The Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Revd Donald Allister, spoke in support of the Motion, which was subsequently passed by the House.

The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, I support the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester, and thank her for bringing this Motion before the House. I have a simple point to make.

The tick-box approach is rarely the right one. People are individuals and wherever possible should be treated as such. While it is clear that the 20-metre rule is too restrictive, setting a replacement figure, whether the old one of 50 metres or some other, is still arbitrary and a matter of ticking boxes instead of treating people as people. The high number of successful appeals, whatever the reasons, shows that the 20-metre rule simply does not work.

If a distance has to be used to make this assessment, I would prefer, with the evidence, to return to the figure of 50 metres. But surely that is not the best way to make an assessment of the needs of a real person. We need a careful assessment by a professional, who already knows the claimant or who can take the time to get to know them, of what they really require in their context given the ups and downs of their condition, allowing for where they live, work, shop, take their recreation and meet their friends. This would mean a well-trained cadre of assessors allowed a reasonable degree of discretion and flexibility, and able to assess each claimant as an individual and allow to each the dignity and worth of a human being.

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Altmann) (Con) [extract]: We want to ensure that we look at people and their condition with a face-to-face assessment, rather than under the previous system, so that we can spend the public money we spend on disabled people in the most appropriate manner. This issue was also raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough. We certainly agree that individuals must be treated as individuals, which, again, is the aim of PIP assessment as well as the Access to Work scheme.