Our welfare system plays an essential role in supporting disabled people to be more financially secure.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for instance helps disabled people to cover some of the additional costs faced as a result of an impairment or condition. For disabled people who are out of work, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is important in helping to meet day-to-day costs.
Over the past few months there has been a lot of attention on PIP and ESA. Here we look at what’s been happening and what these changes mean for disabled people.
High Court ruling on PIP
Back in April 2017 the Government made changes to PIP that tightened up access to the payment for many disabled people. We campaigned against these changes, which made a crude distinction between people with physical impairments and mental health problems.
Then, in December 2017, the High Court ruled that some of these changes were discriminatory and should be scrapped.
The Government last month said that it won’t be appealing this decision and that it will be reviewing all decisions relating to PIP awards since the payment was introduced. They estimate that up to 220,000 disabled people will receive backdated payments where necessary.
This is a welcome decision, as we know PIP is a lifeline for disabled people. In research we carried out with over 500 recipients of either PIP or DLA, 58 per cent said that even a small reduction in their PIP award would have a significant impact on their ability to live independently.
What does this mean for disabled people?
- The Government will review all PIP assessment reports to identify individuals who could be eligible for a backdated payment.
- This includes people who were not eligible for PIP following an assessment.
- No one will need to go through a repeat assessment.
- The Government has not yet announced when the review will start, or in what order claims will be reviewed.
PIP and ESA assessments
This week, the Work and Pensions Select Committee published a report following an inquiry in to how PIP and ESA assessments are working for disabled people.
This made recommendations to Government to improve the way that applications and assessments for PIP and ESA are carried out, such as using more accessible forms of communication and offering home assessments.
The Committee also put forward ideas to make sure decisions about disability benefits are fair and transparent. These include recording assessments, letting claimants know which pieces of evidence have been used to make a decision, and allowing individuals to review their report during the assessment.
We welcome this report and want to see Government act quickly to put these measures in place. However, it is clear that both the PIP assessment and Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for ESA are not fit for purpose and need urgent reform.
We want to see the PIP assessment replaced with an assessment that properly identifies the range and level of extra costs disabled people face.
We also want to see the Work Capability Assessment replaced with a new approach which recognises the full range of barriers that prevent disabled people entering and staying in work.
Reforming both of these assessments is crucial in ensuring disabled people are getting the right support – whether with disability-related costs or whilst out of work – and are able to live independently and participate fully in society.
What will we be doing next?
It’s vital our welfare system works for disabled people. Following the Government announcement on PIP and the Work and Pensions Select Committee report, we will be continuing to campaign for reform of both the PIP assessment and the WCA
If you have any concerns about your payments, you could contact Scope’s helpline for free for more information
Any new assessments need to be shaped by disabled people’s experiences. We want to hear about your experiences of applying for PIP and ESA. If you’d like to share your story, please comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.