While Stormont is on hold, disability claimants struggle

I have been retired from an active political role since my retirement as an MLA in January 2017.

Thursday, 19th July 2018, 9:46 am
Updated Thursday, 19th July 2018, 9:48 am
Ross Hussey, the former Ulster Unionist MLA

Since then I have settled in to a retirement that I enjoy but a lot of my time is provided on a voluntary basis helping people with the benefits system.

I have, in the past, commented on the change from DLA to PIP but I am getting to the point of wanting to yell from the rooftops at our local politicians ‘enough is enough’ get off your lazy backsides and get into Stormont!

One of the best speeches I ever made, and I say so myself, was on the Western Trust and their decision to transfer funding away from those adults with learning disabilities to other areas without a care for these individuals — I still don’t know the exact amount or whose well paid head should roll for the decision.

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These people are ‘forgotten about as are their carers’

Yesterday I completed a PIP application (almost 40 pages) for an adult with learning difficulties, I completed a PIP application for a registered blind man the day before, and a few days ago I completed one for a man suffering from various health issues associated with cancer all of these were for transfers from DLA to PIP.

The more I think of these people and the stories I heard the angrier I got. These are real people these are people who are ‘ forgotten and overlooked’.

We have no assembly because some people want an Irish language act and others don’t. It is about time these idiots took a deep breath and looked at the real world.

If we had an assembly these problems can be looked at and maybe even resolved?

Why can’t those who clearly are on indefinite DLA benefits because of the nature of their disability be automatically transferred to PIP?

The existing file can be reviewed ‘desktop’ and transferred to PIP any queries can be referred back to client. This ensures the file is reviewed but removes the pressure and upset the completion of a new form will put on the claimant.

There are hundreds of families who are dependant on their disability benefits to cope on a day to day basis. There is simply no need to put families through the nightmare of having to complete these complicated forms again they have established their right to benefits and should be automatically transferred to PIP.

The ‘automatic transfer’ in these cases will save money as there is no need for medical assessments unless the claimants position has worsened since the original award.

These silent citizens are not being represented by our so called politicians, they are being allowed to be swallowed up by what is seen as an uncaring bureaucracy.

Finally who in the name of all that is holy designed the specific PIP form? It is not ‘user friendly,’ it is ‘frightening’.

Many people will put it ‘behind the clock’ and simply forego their benefits. I have been filling forms for over 40 years and it takes me two to three hours to complete one of these applications.

Let’s see action for these citizens, let us see our politicians getting to work to create a Northern Ireland where those who need help from the state are cared for and nurtured, not forgotten about or overlooked and funding transferred away from health services without an eyelid being batted. Let us see a specific benefits system developed for those with long term ill health issues or adults with learning difficulties so that they will not be ‘bogged down’ with 40 page forms and needless bureaucracy.

l Mr Hussey is a former Ulster Unionist MLA