As Brexit distracted us, the DWP released some truly horrific figures

The DWP logo and a protest outside parliament by disabled people
Steve Topple

Update: This article was updated at 10:20pm on Wednesday 13 June to include a comment from Esther McVey and additional statistics from the DWP.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) released a large cache of statistics while all eyes were on the EU Withdrawal Bill. The figures are the most complete picture publicly available to date of the reforms surrounding disability benefits. They show a system struggling to cope, and disabled people being denied benefits in record numbers. Disabled people have responded by accusing work and pensions secretary Esther McVey of “lying” to parliament.

Another DWP ‘reform’

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was a non-means-tested benefit for disabled people who need support with their care and mobility needs. But the 2010 Coalition government replaced the DLA with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to reduce costs by 20%. Disabled people who used to get DLA have been having reassessments for PIP since April 2013.

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But since then, PIP has been dogged by controversies. These included the UN saying the government must “repeal” changes made to PIP in 2017 – an argument the High Court agreed with just before Christmas.

On Tuesday 12 June, the DWP released the full statistics for PIP and DLA, for the period April 2013 to April 2018. The details are staggering.

Hundreds of thousands denied benefits

The most recent figure for the number of people who used to get DLA but did not get PIP was released in January. At that time, 21% of most reassessed DLA claims were denied PIP – or 189,960 people.

But now we know the full extent of this.

Since April 2013, around 381,000 DLA claimants who were reassessed for PIP did not get it [pdf, p3]. This is 28% of all DLA claimants who were reassessed. By our calculations, if this trend continues, the DWP could deny PIP to another half a million people who were previously getting DLA. This will mean over 880,000 people will have lost their benefits.

Also by our calculations, the DWP has so far been reassessing DLA claims at an average rate of 272,600 a year. Based on this, it will take the DWP over seven more years to process the remaining claimants.

But the DWP statistics also throw into question several claims McVey has made.

McVey’s claims in parliament

As The Canary previously reported, on Monday 4 June, there was an angry parliamentary debate over PIP. During the debate, McVey claimed that:

more people are getting PIP than were getting DLA. That really needs to be heard so that we dispel any myths from the Opposition.

She also said that PIP:

supports more people than DLA ever did.

And she further stated:

I reiterate that under PIP we are supporting more people than before.

The latest figures from the DWP show that none of McVey’s statements are correct. In May 2013, there were 3,334,160 DLA claimants [xls, table 1, row 56, column C]. But between PIP being introduced in April 2013 and April 2018, there were 1,785,000 PIP claims awarded [pdf, p1].

The Canary spoke to the DWP about McVey’s statements. It pointed us to figures which show that there are more people on DLA and PIP now (combined – 3,701,275 claimants of all ages at November 2017) compared to May 2013 when there were 3,334,160 DLA claimants. It also noted that, under PIP, more people with even more health conditions are supported.

More claims

Meanwhile, McVey claimed in parliament on 4 June that:

under PIP rather than DLA far more people are receiving higher awards.

Figures for how many people received DLA with both components at a higher rate are not available. But DWP statistics do show that, in May 2013, 54% of DLA claims were at the higher rate for at least one component [xls, table 5, row 55, column D]. The latest PIP figures show [pdf, p6] 59% of claims were at a higher rate for at least one component.

McVey’s claim of “far more” people getting higher awards under PIP is, in one area, really only five percentage points more.

The DWP directed The Canary to figures which it says show that, under DLA, 15% of claimants were getting the highest possible rate. Under PIP, the equivalent is 30%.

But then there are the figures for people challenging the DWP’s decisions.

Reconsiderations and appeals

If claimants disagree with a DWP decision over their PIP, they can ask for a mandatory reconsideration. The department’s latest figures show that nearly 22% of PIP mandatory reconsiderations for people previously getting DLA resulted in a change in benefit [xls, table 7b, row 134, column C]. Overall, 18% of all PIP mandatory reconsiderations resulted in a change in benefit.

But the figures for appeals are even more alarming.

In the last full year of DLA (2012/13), tribunals were awarding 41% of the appeals they heard in claimants’ favour [xls, table SSCS.3, row 22, column H]. Under PIP, for the year 2016/17, this figure was 65% of all appeals [xls, table SSCS.3, row 42, column AG].

McVey says…

The DWP gave The Canary a comment from McVey. She said:

This is a brand new benefit that, for the first time, looks not just at people with physical disabilities, but looks fundamentally at all the disabilities people have – cognitive, sensory, health and mental health conditions – and supports more people than DLA ever did.

Disabled people: McVey has been “lying”

Bob Ellard from campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) gave his reaction to The Canary:

These figures bear out what we witness at DPAC from people emailing us in desperation about their PIP cases. The human face behind the figures is a catastrophe of destitution and severe mental distress caused by this government’s hostile environment for disabled people.

The emails that we get every day are heart rending, people who are doing all the right things in terms of working through the appeals process, but what these figures don’t show is the months and months that people wait to reach tribunal, all that time the worry and the hardship mounting up, bringing them to a state of total despair and desperation.

It doesn’t need to be this way, DLA wasn’t perfect but it worked fairly well, certainly in comparison to the damage that PIP is causing. But fairness isn’t a thing that this government do or want to do. The hardship and desperation caused by PIP is a deliberate policy choice, from people who have never known and never will know what it’s like to be destitute and desperate.

As for McVey lying to parliament, it’s no more than we’ve come to expect from her. It should be a matter of the gravest concern to parliament and the country but it’s such a regular occurrence from this government that I doubt anyone will bat an eyelid.

The DWP: not fit for purpose

These figures are absolutely damning, not least because the DWP has essentially redefined the disabilities of hundreds of thousands of people. Because hypothetically, someone on DLA in 2012 could have been deemed as needing support with cooking meals and using public transport. But from 2013, they might no longer have got that support. You could say the government seemed to think that such a person was miraculously cured.

Moreover, the figures show a department that is out of control. And the detail reveals a minister desperately trying to salvage the last shreds of her department’s reputation.

Bodies like the Work and Pensions Select Committee, opposition political parties, and campaign groups need to act quickly. Because too many lives have been damaged by the DWP already.

Get Involved!

– Support DPAC in its fight for disabled people’s rights.

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Featured image via The Canary and UK government – Wikimedia 

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