Former MP receives response from government about closure of Rochdale Personal Independence Payment assessment centre

Date published: 13 November 2019

The Minister for Disabled People, Heath and Work has responded to a letter from former MP Tony Lloyd regarding the closure of the Rochdale Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment centre at Rochdale Infirmary.

The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) centre at Rochdale Infirmary was closed during September, without providing an alternative location in the borough.

Personal Independence Payment is the government’s replacement for Disability Living Allowance. PIP was introduced in April 2013 and is awarded to assist with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill health or a disability.

Mr Lloyd wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about the closure in October, whilst he was still MP, before the dissolution of parliament.

In his original letter, Mr Lloyd wrote: “The closure of the assessment centre without providing an alternative location in Rochdale will have a severe impact on sick and disabled claimants who will have to travel outside of the borough to attend assessments.

“This can only add to the pervasive culture of mistrust which has exacerbated claimant anxiety, and the miserable effect this has on people who are trying to access much needed support.”

In response, Justin Tomlinson, the Minister for Disabled People, Heath and Work, said: “The Independent Assessment Services (IAS) have opened two new sites at Oldham and Bolton to deliver our assessments, and I must reaffirm that we do not expect claimants to travel for more than 90 minutes by public transport (single journey) to a consultation.

“However, this limit is an absolute maximum and for the majority of claimants their journey will be less than this. If a claimant indicates that they are unfit to travel to, or attend the assessment centre, then a taxi or home visit may be necessary.”

Addressing Mr Tomlinson’s letter, Mr Lloyd said: “The Minister's reply shows a shocking disregard for disabled claimants.

“If you live in Littleborough and your assessment appointment is in Bolton, you will need leave your home at around 8am and take two buses and three trains to get to Bolton for a 10am appointment. This is assuming that train services are running on time with no delays, which is unlikely given a recent report by Transport for the North which found that Northern’s performance is worse than it was a year ago.

“I note that the Minister has said home visits are available, however I know from practise this seldom happens, because I've helped severely ill patients who have been denied these appointments. 

“The Minister’s suggestion to use a taxi is absurd as a taxi journey from Littleborough to Bolton costs between £36-£49. Most people who apply for PIP and ESA are struggling to make ends meet, so it’s ludicrous to think they have this amount of money to spare on taxi fare.

“These assessment processes are not fit for purpose, and instead of supporting people, the process is often dehumanising, inaccurate and worsens existing health conditions.”

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