220,000 disabled to win back payments

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DISABLED people were thrown off benefits in their hundreds of thousands by private assessors Atos and then Capita, and left penniless to face eviction and starvation.

Now, after the government was defeated in the High Court, some 220,000 disabled people will be compensated for their loss with two years’ worth of the benefits they were denied. Furthermore, every single person receiving Personal Independence Payments (PIP) will have their claim reviewed, the Department for Work and Pensions said yesterday. This amounts to a total of 1.6 million people.

It was in December that the High Court ruled that Tory cuts to benefits ‘blatantly discriminate’ against people with psychiatric problems and are ‘a breach of their human rights’. Last week, new Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey announced the government would not appeal against the judgment.

This means that payments will be backdated to the original tribunal decision in November 2016.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: ‘The government was wrong to cut PIP benefits in the first place, wrong to bring in the PIP regulations last year and it was wrong to repeatedly ignore the views of the courts.’

In one example Keith Thompson, who lives with bipolar disorder, had his PIP reduced from £420 to £220 because he did not score enough points on his assessment. He was initially told he would receive no PIP payment, but that was later reviewed and he was informed he would receive a minor PIP, rather than the full amount.

Atos and Capita are being paid hundreds of millions of pounds by the government to force disabled people to attend assessment interviews. Not only is it very difficult for disabled people to get to the assessment centres, especially if they have no specialised transport, but they are then subjected to a gruelling assessment.

Dave Wiltshire, secretary of the All Trade Unions Alliance, said: ‘Both the private assessment companies and the Tories are hated in equal amounts. Disabled people are fighting back, organising demonstrations outside assessment centres up and down the country, even chaining their wheelchairs together to block the roads outside Whitehall.

‘They cannot be left to fight alone! The entire working class must be mobilised to back up their struggle with a general strike to bring down the Tory government, and bring in a workers government to abolish the assessments and give disabled people all the finances and assistance they need.’