In his weekly column in The Shuttle, our MP expressed surprise at the volume of constituents going to him reporting issues with PIP, which is a disability living allowance to help with mobility issues.
Mark said "But recently I've noticed an unusual number of people seeing me........it may be a statistical anomaly (in Wyre Forest)".
Here are the facts if our MP doesn't understand the consequence of his own actions in voting for policies his Government has introduced and which cause immeasurable stress and anxiety to the disabled:
Disabled people are being systematically targeted by an increasingly uncaring Government. PIP began replacing the old disability living allowance (DLA) in 2013 as part of Iain Duncan Smith’s Tory welfare cuts. The Tory aim is to stop 160,000 disabled people being able to claim. That is the "statistical anomaly" Mark refers to which is actually a "statistical cull" of eligibility to much needed benefits for the disabled. Mark seems not to realise that the criteria for receiving help has became more stringent and most claimants are now subject to constant reassessment. Almost everyone on DLA, apart from the most extreme long-term cases, has had to reapply for PIP. Tories like Mark's colleague George Freeman even think people are malingering when genuinely ill or disabled, and so was forced to apologise this week for such remarks.
That's the back story here and Wyre Forest Labour is deeply concerned about Mark's declared ignorance on this subject which is being played out in the public realm.
Stephen Brown of Wyre Forest Labour says "If Mark Garnier is not ignorant of these facts, it's spin, and deliberately designed to mislead the public, and that's even worse. Wyre Forest deserves an MP that pays attention in debates in Parliament on Bills which are going to detrimentally affect his constituents".
Stephen Brown went further by saying "Indeed, as a Volunteer and Chair of a Charity and advice agency in Birmingham myself, I can testify the same problems are evident in Birmingham. Our advice workers also report upon speaking to colleagues across the country in other advice agencies, the same problems exist everywhere. I am truly exasperated that with every passing week, our MP either fails to understand the consequence of his actions in Parliament, doesn't care, or is so complacent about his right to be our MP, he thinks the people of Wyre Forest are going to keep swallowing this rubbish he continually comes out with".
Labour opposes these welfare cuts and promises to end this discrimination against the disabled if elected.
From a report in the Independent Newspaper in 2015 - One in four claiming disability benefits faces serious difficulties including delays, unfair dismissals and confusion over eligibility
"(In 2014) the Public Accounts Committee described the implementation of PIP as “nothing short of a fiasco”. Figures for April 2015 show 11,500 people in one month went to Citizens Advice for help with the benefit in one month. This is a significant number given that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recorded only 52,000 new claimants and reassessments in the same month"
From the same Independent Newspaper report in 2015: "In the past year, Citizens Advice received more than 100,000 queries about eligibility for PIP and more than 50,000 approaches about issues with a claim, including problems with delays. A significant number – more than 20,000 – also needed help with challenges and appeals after being turned down for the payment......The disability charity Scope says that, like Citizens Advice, its helpline has been inundated with calls from people struggling with PIP. Negative decisions and poor decision-making are something the service says it hears about every day"
Mark Atkinson, chief executive of Scope, has said about PIP: “We’ve heard from a large number of disabled people who used to receive DLA, but did not qualify when reassessed for PIP. Many of the callers said that their assessment report didn’t resemble what happened in their assessment. Life costs more if you are disabled. From higher energy bills to specialist equipment – our research shows that this adds up to on average £550 per month. Extra costs payments – DLA and PIP – are a financial lifeline for disabled people.”