PIP is a lifeline for disabled people and needs to be protected

We know that life costs more if you’re disabled. Personal Independence Payments (PIP) play a key role in helping disabled people to manage some of these extra costs.

Last week the Government announced plans to tighten up access to PIP. We are concerned that this reduction in financial support will make it harder for many disabled people to live independent and fulfilling lives.

The extra costs of disability

Scope research shows disabled people spend on average £550 a month on costs related to their impairment or condition. For one in 10, these costs amount to £1,000 a month.

The additional costs disabled people face broadly fall into three categories:

  • Expensive purchases of specialised equipment, such as wheelchairs or screen readers.
  • Greater use of non-specialised goods and services, such as energy or taxis and private hire vehicles.
  • Paying more for non-specialised goods and services, such as insurance or higher tariffs for accessible hotel rooms.

These costs have a detrimental impact on disabled people’s financial stability. For instance, disabled people have an average of £108,000 fewer savings and assets than non-disabled people, whilst households with a disabled person are more likely to have unsecured debt compared to households without a disabled member.

The financial barrier of extra costs makes it harder for individuals to get a job, access education and training opportunities, pay into savings and pensions, and participate fully in their community.

The role of PIP

The role of PIP – and its predecessor Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – is to support disabled people to meet the additional costs of disability.

Unlike other aspects of the welfare system, PIP is not an income replacer like Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseeker’s Allowance, nor is it designed to boost people’s income when wages are low like tax credits. It serves to level the playing field between disabled people and non-disabled people by helping to tackle the financial penalty of disability.

This puts disabled people in a stronger position to contribute to, and benefit from economic growth as employees, savers and consumers. In research we carried out with over 500 recipients of either PIP or DLA, over half said that PIP was important in helping them to work. A further 58 per cent said that even a small reduction in their PIP award would have a significant impact on their ability to live independently.

Our concerns with proposed changes to PIP

Scope has welcomed previous commitments by Government to protect the value of PIP and keep it free from any taxation or means-testing.

However, last week proposed changes to PIP regulations were announced that would make it harder for many disabled people to score points for certain descriptors in the assessment.

This follows two recent legal judgements which ruled in favour of awarding higher points during a PIP assessment for people who need help taking medication, or who can’t travel alone due to “psychological distress”.

Since the announcement, Scope has received a number of queries through its helpline, online community, social media and customer contact teams from current disabled claimants who are worried about whether these new changes would affect them.

A new PIP assessment

We are concerned that the changes Government are proposing make a crude distinction between those with physical impairments and mental health problems, which will lead to many disabled people missing out on vital financial support with disability-related costs.

However, we know that someone’s impairment or condition is not an accurate indicator of the additional costs they face. Disabled people have unique experiences of additional costs, which often arise as a result of barriers to participating fully in society. For instance, somebody with an anxiety disorder who finds it difficult using public transport may have to consequently spend more on taxis to get around.

We want to see reform of the PIP assessment so that it accurately captures the range and level of disabled people’s extra costs. Disabled people with lived experience of these costs should be directly involved in designing and setting a new assessment criteria.

What Scope is doing

We are calling on Government to think again about these changes and are briefing government officials about why it is so important that they don’t go ahead.

Our Chief Executive has also spoken to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to raise our concerns and ask Government to rethink its decision to reduce access to PIP.

We will continue to raise our concerns with PIP in the media to ensure Government hears disabled people’s experiences of extra costs.

We’re keen to hear from you about why PIP is important to you or about your experiences of getting PIP. If you’d like to share your story, please comment below or email stories@scope.org.uk.

For further information about PIP, visit Scope’s website or call our helpline for free on 0808 800 3333.