Fewer than half of claims for payment under a controversial government benefit for disabled and sick people are being approved in parts of Teesside.
Figures released today show that, nationally, 51% of Britons applying for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) ended up receiving the money.
But the proportion is as low as 26% – or just over one in four claims – in some parts of the country.
On Teesside, Redcar parliamentary constituency had the lowest approval rate at 47%.
In the two Middlesbrough constituencies, 1,090 claims have now been determined.
The approval rate was 49% in Middlesbrough and 48% in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.
In Stockton North the figure was 55% while Stockton South’s was 51%.
PIPs were introduced in April 2013 to replace Disability Living Allowance for 16-64 years olds.
Payments are worth between £21 and £134 a week and go to sick and disabled people with a long-term health condition.
Eligibility is determined by medics employed by private companies, usually at a face-to-face assessment lasting up to two hours.
Department for Work and Pension figures showed the approval rate for new claims was 26% in the parliamentary constituency – the lowest in the country.
That compares with an approval rate of 68% in Scotland’s Western Isles and Stoke-on-Trent South.
Nationally, around 100,000 people have either withdrawn their claim or had it refused.
Reassessments of the existing 1.7m claimants of DLA began in October but was effectively paused after a backlog of 780,000 cases built up.
In June this year the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee said the new system had been ‘rushed’ through, creating a ‘fiasco’ in which ‘many’ people faced six-month delays, and terminally ill people were waiting one month on average for their payment.
Payments had been due to begin in the north of England from April 2013 but only 360 assessments had been done by the time the programme was launched nationally two months later.
The Department for Work and Pensions expects 600,000 fewer people will receive PIP by May 2018, compared with its projections for DLA. It expects this will lead to annual savings to benefit spending of £3bn from 2018/19.
The latest figures, up to the end of July 2014, show 80,100 PIPs were awarded nationally under ‘normal’ rules, out of 177,000 new claims considered closed by the department. Some 22,100 PIPs have been awarded under special fast-track rules for people with a terminal illness, out of 23,100 closed claims.
In all, 490,400 new claims have been lodged under the new system.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 17 Sept 2014
More and more tenants have been forced from their homes in the North after landlords took steps to take back their properties.
In parts of the region, possession claims have risen to their highest levels in over a decade – with the number rocketing by more than 70% in some areas in just a year.
MPs say they are are “deeply concerned” by the trend, and that for too long, in the face of a rising cost of living, “Generation Rent” has been forgotten.
“Many households in the North are really struggling with the cost of living – and one of the most significant issues facing so many families across the region is housing costs, whether they rent or own their home,” said Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell, Labour’s shadow economic secretary to the treasury.
“The steep increase in the number of tenants losing their homes across the North East is deeply concerning, but unsurprising in the face of rising household bills combined with falling real terms wages, and the prevalence of low-paid, insecure work for those who are in employment.
“Of course, many thousands across the region have been hit by the unfair bedroom tax, leaving many in rent arrears for the first time.
“For too long, those who rent their homes have been forgotten about – and this number is increasing.”
Nationally, the number of claims by private landlords were up 4.1% year on year in 2013/14, while social landlord claims rose 17.8%.
But in Middlesbrough private landlord claims jumped 71.1% – one of the biggest increases in England and Wales – and the number of both private (65) and social (573) landlord claims reached their highest levels since 2002/03.
The number of social landlord claims in Stockton-on-Tees also rose sharply, up 43.9%, from 253 in 2012/13 to 364 in 2013/14, while Northumberland also recorded its highest number of claims in more than a decade at 691.
“These figures have been released just over a year since the bedroom tax was implemented,” Kevin Williamson, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, said. “We have long warned of the stresses that the bedroom tax is placing people under, and housing associations are working hard to help their tenants.”
A spokesman for Northumberland County Council urged anyone affected by such proceedings to get in touch with their local authority, who may be able to offer support and advice.
“Possession proceedings will only be taken by registered landlords as an action of last resort.
“We would urge anyone who finds themselves in a position where they may be in danger of losing their home to contact the council’s housing options team, who can offer advice and support,” he said.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle 11 May 2014