We recently suggested to Benefits and Work readers that they consider contacting their MP if they can’t get through to the DWP on the phone. We’ve heard from lots of readers since about their experience of asking their MP for help. One lesson seems to be: don’t make assumptions about whether your MP will be helpful based on which party they belong to or what their voting record on benefits is.
Our reader Anees has nothing but praise for Labour MP, Sam Tarry who she says is a “fantastic person and his staff are lovely. He help me always and every time, after his recent help I was awarded enhanced award in PIP.”
And Mo is just as impressed with her MSP Patrick Grady. She says that he and “his staff are fantastic, Patrick goes above and beyond, he is always supportive and has helped me many times navigate the appalling service from the DWP, after his recent help I was awarded £50 compensation by the DWP’s complaints department.”
But it seems even a “useless Tory MP” can actually be very helpful, reader Alison tells us.
“Surprised to say, my useless tory MP made a complaint, ATOS took it up, saying my assessment was totally unsatisfactory, then I had a massive 3 way assessment and had my pip reinstated. For a while there, I was both grateful and amazed. So don't be put off if you think you might not get help.”
Conservative MP Kemi Badenoch helped Sandra after her husband died and she struggled to get the DWP to look at her ESA award again. Sandra says that “Not only did her department sort out my supersession and get me onto ESA income based but also got a refund of my Bereavement Support Payment that the DWP had been wrongly taking off my ESA and also managed to get my disabled premium put on and backdated and secure me the cost of living payment I was due.”.
Another Conservative MP helped Ani, who was facing destitution: “Yes, my MP Desmond Swayne did intervene at the last minute, speaking directly with Jeremy Hunt when he was health minister to force the DWP to restore my benefits after 18 months with no income, as I was very ill and facing homelessness.”
One reader, John, told us that he was one of the very first people to apply for PIP. After waiting 6 months he still hadn’t had an assessment and was concerned he might miss out as he was nearing his 65th birthday. He contacted his Conservative MP, Tobias Elwood and, John tells us:
“The response was immediate from the MP's office. They sent me a copy of their letter to the DWP demanding that my case to be reviewed urgently. Within two days, I received a face to face appointment, which resulted in my PIP award, backdated 6 months. I'm 74 now and still getting PIP. The moral is, contact your MP for action.”
But not all Conservative MPs are so helpful. Helen says she has contacted her Conservative MP Mark Harper three times about her PIP and never had so much as a reply.
Meanwhile Viv was less than impressed with Labour MP Derek Twigg after she sought his help. The DWP claimed that Viv had not responded to a letter or texts they sent her and so stopped her PIP. Viv had never received any of the communications. Twigg suggested that Viv should try to prove that they had never been sent, a virtually impossible task as second class post is not tracked and the recipient cannot prove they didn’t receive a text. Viv said of Twigg, “He & his assistant we’re not fit for purpose.”
Some posters didn’t tell us which MP they had asked for help, but experiences were still varied.
One reader was told by their MP “it is not the job of MP's to raise issues on behalf of individuals”.
Another poster, Phil, is a carer for his partner who has chronic long term lower back pain, IBS, severe diverticulitis, borderline personality disorder and severe anxiety. In spite of submitting very large amounts of medical and other evidence for a PIP claim, they were told they would have to undertake a 160 mile round trip for an assessment.
Even after Capita were told the claimant couldn’t be far from a lavatory, the best concession they would offer was to reduce the round trip to 80 miles.
Phil contacted his MP and within days Capita had decided they had enough evidence for a paper assessment and our Phil’s partner got a 10 year enhanced award of PIP.
As Phil says “The point I'm making here is, when all may seem lost, contacting your local MP and asking for their help really does make a difference.”
Reader Jean’s daughter was incorrectly and repeatedly told by the DWP that she was earning too much to claim Carer’s Allowance – even though she wasn’t working at all. In the end she contacted her MP and “within two weeks it was all sorted and her claim was backdated, our MP was amazing she even contacted our daughter to check all was well.”
So, we’re sticking by our advice to try to get help from your MP if you can’t get through to the DWP by phone. But whether you’ll be happy with their response is, unfortunately, as much of a lottery as whether the DWP will answer your call.