Bangor PIP centre closure highlighted at PMQ’s
The plight of disability claimants in Gwynedd and Anglesey who face round trips of up to 140 miles for benefits assessments have been highlighted in Parliament.
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Arfon MP Hywel Williams urged Boris Johnson to step-in and reverse the closure of the Bangor PIP assessment centre.
Assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in north west Wales were carried out at Ty Menai on the Parc Menai business park until it closed suddenly four months ago.
This is despite the contract between the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and assessment provider Capita stating that claimants should not have to travel for more than ninety minutes by public transport for an assessment.
But the the decision to close the centre means that the nearest alternative assessment centres are in Rhyl and Aberystwyth.
Speaking in the commons, Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams said: “In November last year, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Assessment Centre in my constituency was moved to Rhyl. No notice was given.
“The next bus from Caernarfon to Rhyl takes one hour forty four minutes.’
“Or a case in point, in my Right Honourable Friend’s constituency (Dwyfor Meirionnydd), Barmouth to Rhyl takes five hours fifteen minutes.’
“Or a disabled person in Barmouth could take the train to the Aberystwyth Assessment Centre, at a mere two hours twenty five minutes, one way.’
“This is a reality in the Prime Minister’s soar-away Global Britain. Will he (the Prime Minister) instruct his Minister to remedy this matter immediately?”
In response, the Prime Minister said: “We do need to improve our bus services across the whole country and that’s why we’re investing another £250m immediately into improving bus services and the Chancellor has many more such investments in the pipeline.”
Describing Mr Johnson’s reply as a “non-answer”, Mr Williams said afterwards: “The assessment process is not fit for purpose as it is, and instead of supporting vulnerable people, the process is often dehumanising, erroneous and worsens existing health conditions for vulnerable people.
“This situation is a serious cause of concern for me and my constituents and the government must urgently clarify what efforts are being made to establish a new assessment centre to meet the needs of local claimants.”
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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