Chaos at benefit appeals – Lockhart

15 April 2019

Upper Bann DUP MLA, Carla Lockhart has hit out at the Department for Communities following chaos at recent Personal Independent Payment (PIP) Appeals.

Carla Lockhart MLA

Carla Lockhart

This comes following the adjournment of several appeals last week due to a lack of clarity from the Department around indemnification of the legally qualified doctor who attends the panel.


Speaking on the matter Carla Lockhart said, “I along with colleagues have been attending and representing constituents for many years at appeal hearings, but in the past two weeks they have descended into chaos around the presenting of medical notes and indemnification of a legally qualified doctor on the panel.


The Department for Communities has not been able to clarify the legal position and doctors and solicitors are interpreting it differently. Many are refusing to look at the much needed medical evidence unless it has been brought and checked by the client or their representative, with all “irrelevant” documents removed.  This is unfair on the person presenting for appeal given the distress this process can cause. 


Additionally, representatives are now querying their indemnification given that solicitors are advising that they too would be liable if there is any breach of GDPR.  This has caused severe problems for some of the most vulnerable people in society.  People are presenting to these appeals in good faith that the solicitor, doctor and disability personnel will be able to go through the process of looking at their medical history, questioning them on their ability according to the descriptors and make a judgement on eligibility for this benefit.


I have written to the Department for Communities asking for immediate clarity and a common sense approach to this impasse.  It needs resolved immediately.  With the backlog of cases people are already waiting over six months for their case to be heard. This is an unacceptable situation and is causing unnecessary distress.  I am shocked that in this day and age legally qualified individuals are not permitted to look at medical notes either provided by the client or their GP directly.”

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