SDLP social justice spokesperson Mark H Durkan MLA has described an investigation into the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), carried out by the Public Services Ombudsman as unequivocal proof of systemic maladministration.
A vocal and persistent critic of the PIP system, Mr Durkan said the mindboggling extension of the Capita's contract is further evidence of Minister Hargey’s ineptitude.
The Foyle MLA commented:
“The SDLP has been consistent in our criticism of the cruel and degrading PIP system.
“Sadly, this report confirms what many vulnerable people and experts within the sector already know- the system is plagued by a litany of failures, inherent deficiencies and is not fit for purpose. Claimants have found out the hard way- not just to their financial cost but at great cost to their health and wellbeing too.
“The report is scathing on Capita’s performance and questions really now need to be asked of Minister Hargey as to why she has extended their contract for a further two years, without even running a procurement process.
“Her own party, like others, have rightly been vocal in their criticism of Capita and their inhumane treatment of people. The fact that she has rewarded failure and given them another two years to inflict stress and misery on people is staggering. It is further evidence that the Minister is not up to the job.
“It’s worth remembering that the SDLP voted against welfare reform from the outset, unwilling to subject the North to the worst of Tory austerity. Sinn Féin voted this system in, then held protests and waved placards in opposition to it. Now they are perpetuating it.
“Ultimately, people are not getting the support or dignity they deserve.”