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Mike Penning, Minister for the Disabled [Image: The Guardian].

Mike Penning, Minister for the Disabled [Image: The Guardian].

There are two sides to every story, we are told – and two sides to the new minister for disabled people, Mike Penning, it seems.

Asked why many cancer patients had died before their claims for the new Personal Independence Payment had been processed – during periods of up to 10 weeks – Mr Penning told The Guardian it was vital that the service must be improved.

“We have to get it right because these people need the help as fast as they can get it,” he told the Commons Work and Pensions committee, according to the paper.

Penning said he wanted people with terminal illnesses to be able to claim and receive payment within seven days – but was reluctant to introduce targets, saying he would enforce the goal with: “My size 10 boots.”

Presumably this means he’s going to use them to give his officers a kick up the backside, meaning he wants to encourage a culture of bullying in the DWP – from the top down – rather than professionalism. That’s worth knowing.

He talked up a storm, though. “I have a passion about this. Not just because it’s something that has touched my life, but because it is a moral position,” he said. “While I am the minister, I want to see seven days. I can’t see why we can’t achieve seven days or even less.”

What a change this is from the man met by Paula Peters after the Work and Pensions meeting in Westminster on Monday!

According to Paula, Mr Penning met people from organisations representing the disabled and told them, in her words: “Our disabilities are our fault. Everyone who claims benefits is frauding the system.”

Considering the performance statistics, it seems likely that those at the latter meeting may have seen Mr Penning’s true face.

If so, then perhaps he should make better use of his size-10s…

And take a hike.

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