I was very pleased to receive guarantees this month from Independent Assessment Services (IAS) that visually impaired claimants of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will no longer be subjected to evasive and unnecessary sight tests.
The meeting between myself, Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) Scotland, War Blinded and IAS occurred after my parliamentary question early in the year shone a light on the alarming number of those with sight loss failing initial PIP assessments.
In January, I spoke to several charities and organisations about the process of IAS assessments where details were revealed that assessors had been asking visually impaired claimants to read charts, make eye contact and walk around a room. This was done despite the n. ature of the sight loss already being provided to IAS by Optometrists.
The figures demonstrated that 40% of claimants with sight issues who applied for PIP were being denied the lifeline benefit. This was compounded by a much higher than the average success rate for appeals, forcing those with sight loss to endure a much longer than necessary ordeal to access the benefits for which they were entitled.
PIP is not a means-tested benefit but instead, claimants are forced to undergo vigorous assessments to deem their eligibility to qualify.
Francis Watt, who attended the meeting, told IAS bosses he was forced to go through a difficult appeal to get PIP. He said: “The experience was very stressful, and a long, drawn-out process that took 10 months from the date I made the application.”
IAS bosses have now committed to bringing this ordeal to an end for claimants.
Mark O’Donnell, chief executive of Royal Blind and Scottish War Blinded, said: “We are grateful to Chris Stephens MP for facilitating this helpful dialogue with IAS so we can understand why the system is not working better for people living with sight loss and to make the case for a fairer approach in the future. “