People contact their MP for numerous reasons – it may a campaign they are interested in, an issue they feel passionately about or something they want to celebrate, writes Tracy Brabin MP in her latest column.
There are also those who get in touch when they are at their lowest ebb or when they feel they have nowhere else to go.
To put it another way, they go to their MP when the state has failed them. These people, who are often the most vulnerable in society, are crying out for help.
I bring this up because I’ve recently had several constituents contact me about their Personal Independence Payments (PIP) being abruptly cancelled as a result of punitive reviews.
This is nothing new – but figures from the first three months of this year show that 71% of those who appealed the decisions won. In other words, they should have never had their PIP stopped in the first place.
Among those who contacted me was Joanne, a local woman whose debilitating condition means that she needs 24-hour care. Her PIP was reviewed a full year before her claim was due to run out and ultimately stopped, leading to what she describes as a “catastrophic loss financially”. Joanne and her family now rely on the foodbank to put food on the table.
I had the opportunity to raise her case in the House of Commons with the Government Disabilities Minister; her response was patronising, cold and demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of a system she is employed to oversee.
These decisions have real human consequences. As Joanne so articulately put it, PIP allowed her to “have something beyond merely existing”.
Another constituent who voluntarily gave up PIP after feeling well enough to return to work later discovered how cruel the system can be.
She suffers from PTSD and her vivid flashbacks led to her employer eventually advising that it was unsafe for her be at work.
But the good people at ATOS – a private contractor whose repeated failings saw them rewarded with a multi-million pound extension of their contract – found her fit to work.
ATOS, along with Capita, have had a staggering 14,805 of their PIP decisions overturned in the first three months of this year, and yet the Government is throwing vast sums of cash at them.
The Tories are rewarding failure while the most vulnerable suffer the consequences, and it needs to be stopped.