The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has once again had to change its policy surrounding disabled people’s benefits. This time, it involves the assessments carried out for people living with severe conditions or impairments.
The DWP: caving in?
On Monday 18 June, Sarah Newton – the minister for disabled people, health and work – said the government was changing the way people living with “severe or progressive conditions” got their Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Specifically, the DWP said that people with the “highest level” of PIP support:
and where their needs are expected to stay the same or increase – will receive an ongoing award of PIP with a light touch review every 10 years.
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According to the website Benefits and Work, there are currently no set times when the DWP reviews people’s PIP. Claims last for fixed periods, and the department can review them at any time, or when the current award ends.
But the PIP process has been controversial since the Coalition government launched it in 2013.
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A most controversial policy
The DWP brought PIP in to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). But as Sarah Marsh wrote in the Guardian, this meant that people with lifetime conditions such as Down’s syndrome, blindness and paraplegia who previously received lifetime DLA had to be reassessed.
Since then, as The Canary exclusively reported, the DWP has told over 380,000 people who previously got DLA that they’re not entitled to PIP. The PIP controversy has been compounded by numerous stories in the press about the DWP denying it to people with severe conditions or impairments, or failures in the review process. On top of this, 65% of people who appeal the DWP’s PIP decisions win their cases.
Just to add to the chaos, it has now twice had to launch reviews into PIP claims after losing court cases to disabled people. So it appears this latest move is more of a pre-emptive strike against unending criticism than an acknowledgement of error. As Newton said:
We’ve listened to feedback from organisations and the public…
Just how the DWP will introduce and monitor the changes is unclear. When it did a similar reform in 2017 of the Work Capability Assessment as part of the Employment and Support Allowance, some disabled people’s organisations were sceptical about whether it would work. And the DWP’s latest move on PIP has left some of them similarly unimpressed.
A chronic state of disarray
Paula Peters from campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) told The Canary:
The announcement by the DWP comes a little too late. By reviewing the guidelines for disabled people with the highest support needs, we could see many disabled people being denied the highest rate of PIP – as many may not meet the new guidelines. There are thousands of disabled people with a progressive condition or terminally ill who have been denied PIP altogether and have had the additional stress of appealing. This will be another excuse from the DWP to tighten guidelines to deny support. A ‘light touch’ will equal a sledge hammer blow and months of stress disabled people really do not need. Living with a disability day to day is already hard enough, without constant reassessments.
Disabled people should approach the DWP’s latest concession with caution. It may well ease uncertainty for many people. But it will do little to dispel the notion that the department is in a chronic state of disarray – a state that no amount of tinkering around the edges will cure.
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Featured image via UK government – Wikimedia
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