THE Government’s “abusive” benefits system that subjects disabled people to “immense distress” needs to be abolished.

That was the call from the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), who work with disabled people across Oldham.

The organisation condemned the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) process after figures reveal more than 1,500 disabled people in the borough have taken the Government to tribunal over benefit payments, with 57 per cent of them having the original decision overturned.

Since 2013, 1,650 people have escalated their cases further and challenged the DWP at a tribunal, with an independent panel overturning the Government's decision in 720 (57 per cent) of those cases.

Between April 2013 and the end of 2020, the Department of Work and Pensions assessed 19,300 applications for Personal Independence Payment from people in the area – 65 per cent resulted in an award being granted.

The benefit – which is not means tested – covers the additional expenses faced by those with disabilities and is worth between £23 and £150 a week, depending on an individual's needs.

The application process, described by GMCDP as a “disgrace”, sees most claimants meet with a Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) assessor who evaluates their care and mobility needs as part of a points-based system.

A spokesperson from the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP), said the DWP's PIP assessment process “causes immense distress to disabled people who find the entire system abusive”.

“PIP was introduced with the express policy goal of cutting half a million disabled people's benefits. It should be abolished and replaced with a new system co-designed with disabled people. We know that tribunals are losing patience with the poor working of the DWP and lack of evidence they provide for why they deny benefits to disabled people,” they added.

Under the current system if the applicant is unhappy with the outcome of the assessment, a mandatory reconsideration can be requested, which sees the DWP review the decision.

In Oldham, only around one in six awards taken to that first appeal stage were changed.

According to the GMCDP there have been “serious” case reviews over deaths caused by the process but the DWP have “destroyed historical evidence”.

A spokesperson from GMCDP added: “They know very well that their system is a disgrace yet persist in subjecting disabled people to it.

“In 2016, the UN found there were 'grave and systemic' human rights abuses of disabled people which amounted to a 'human catastrophe' and the situation since then has only gotten worse.”

The organisation has now formed Oldham Forward Together to combat the issues faced by disabled people as a result the PIP process.

Their condemnation echoes comments from Louise Rubin from the disability charity Scope, who called the assessment process “fundamentally flawed”.

She said: “Disabled people have told us about specific failures in their PIP assessment, such as their views and experiences not being listened to, information recorded inaccurately, the advice and views of medical experts ignored and a lack of understanding, empathy or compassion from staff.

“If the DWP got more decisions right first time, fewer disabled people would go through a lengthy and stressful appeal process to get the vital support they need.”

Across Britain over 350,000 appeals - from more than four million applications - have been lodged since 2013 and the claimant won in more than two-thirds of those cases.

However, Michael Paul from Disability Rights UK said many applicants do not appeal because they are “tired of the stressful and time-consuming bureaucracy” and fear losing any existing award.

A DWP spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring that people get all the support they are entitled to and in the vast majority of cases there isn’t an appeal as we make the right decision, first time.

“When someone disagrees with a decision we will, where necessary, contact them to get further information so decisions can be thoroughly reviewed and an appeal potentially avoided.”