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New drama to highlight ‘brutal’ effects of welfare reform

Fionnuala Kennedy’s’s play re-enact a PIPs assessment and considers its wider impact 
Fionnuala Kennedy’s’s play re-enact a PIPs assessment and considers its wider impact
By Caoimhe Quinn

THE CULTURLANN is to host a free performance to highlight the ‘brutal’ process of PIPs assessments by inviting three actors to live-read an assessment for PIP based on real life accounts.
Playwright Fionnuala Kennedy, is staging the work in partnership with Participation and Practice of Rights (PPR) and An Chultúrlann and it will be followed by a panel discussion.
“I always try to make work that is socially and politically relevant,” Fionnuala explained. “My first play was about my own experience of living in a hostel, looking at the current housing structure and the absurd points-based system for housing.
“This new piece looks at the introduction of PIPs, replacing DLA, and the government removing disability benefits from those who desperately need it, using a list of crafted yet ridiculous questions designed to get people the lowest scores and have their benefits stopped. I attended an assessment with a family member and was horrified at the lack of understanding about his condition, that the health professional – in this case, a paramedic – was making life decisions about a person with severe mental health problems based on a 30-minute interview. We are re-enacting this PIPs assessment live. Whilst this particular case looks at mental health, it is vitally important not to leave physical disability out of the discussion and we invite everyone going through these benefit changes to come and share their experiences.”
Fionnuala is working in partnership with PPR who have been campaigning for due process and impact assessments before income is stopped.
“We want to ask: is this process inhumane? Does the assessment abide by international human rights obligations to which the UK government and NI Assembly are signatories? Is it right to exclude GP input and evidence in favour a 30-minute interview with a ‘healthcare professional’ working for a private company? Is this new benefit costing more money than it saves and what is the human cost?”
Following the reading, there will be a discussion about PIPs with some people familiar with the workings of the system.
The free event will be held at 7.30pm in the Culturlann tomorrow, Wednesday, March 14.

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