Championing fairer access
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a benefit that provides extra money to help with the costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability.
Read what one local Healthwatch did when people told them they were having to travel too far to be assessed for this payment.
We spoke to Healthwatch Kirklees to find out more.
What was the issue?
We first heard of this problem at a local carers group meeting in Huddersfield, where carers of children with severe disabilities told us they had to travel as far as Manchester to attend a Personal Independence Payment review.
We found that Kirklees was the only area in West Yorkshire that did not have a PIP assessment centre, while most other West Yorkshire areas had at least two.
Through speaking to other local support organisations, we found out more about how this issue was affecting people in the community. People were being asked to travel long distances to have their needs assessed, despite being physically or financially unable to make the journey. This left people feeling that they were being ‘set up to fail’ and forced to remain without the support they needed.
- Local Healthwatch challenge county council to cut waiting times
- Healthwatch network award winners 2016
What did you do?
We shared what people had told us with Atos, which conducts assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. We asked whether they had any plans to open an assessment centre in Kirklees to make things easier and fairer for people in our community. When Atos said no, we worked to raise awareness of the difficulties people were experiencing with other local organisations, and encouraged them to push for change.
We provided a letter template for local organisations to use to write to Iain Duncan Smith, then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to ask for a change in the way PIP assessments were delivered in our area.
Our work was backed by three local MPs and ten local councillors wrote to the Secretary of State. In addition, a number of community organisations, law centres, and health and disability focused organisations also spoke up about this problem.
What happened as a result?
Thanks to our collective efforts to highlight this problem, people are now able to have their PIP assessments in a new centre in Kirklees. This is a really positive result for those who need to use the centre who now no longer need to travel long distances to access this vital service.
This work also helped to make more people aware of Healthwatch Kirklees and what we do. It has really strengthened our relationships with voluntary groups, councillors and MPS too.
How else is local Healthwatch making an impact?
For more stories about how local Healthwatch is working to make your voice count, take a look at our new publication that highlights the winners and highly commended local Healthwatch from this year’s Healthwatch Network Awards.
Find your local Healthwatch
If you’d like to share your experiences of health and social care services, get in touch with your local Healthwatch.