Over 30 charities call on the DWP to rethink ‘damaging’ disability benefit changes

Charity chiefs say people with mental health conditions face missing out on £3.7 billion in Personal Independence Payments by 2022.

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Chief Executives of over thirty UK charities have written to the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Penny Mordaunt, calling on the minister to rethink damaging changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

The DWP recently announced that it will rewrite the law, denying higher PIP payments for tens of thousands of people with debilitating mental health conditions, after tribunals ruled those who need to be accompanied when outdoors due to severe distress should be awarded more points for the PIP mobility component.

Read more: Tories ‘shifting the goal posts’ on disability benefit entitlements, say Labour

It is estimated that around 160,000 people with mental health conditions will be denied eligibility for PIP or higher payments as a result of the changes, a move charity chiefs claim “undermines the principle of the PIP assessment and its ability to fairly provide financial support, regardless of impairment or condition.”

PIP is designed to help cover the additional costs associated with living with a disability or long-term health condition, including mental illness. Research by the disability charity Scope found disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on disability related expenditure, including increased energy bills, specialist equipment and insurance.

The charities say people with mental health issues, learning disabilities and autism face similar barriers and costs as those with physical disabilities and other impairments, and that a person’s mental health should not be disregarded when assessed for PIP.

Read more: People with mental health conditions denied equal access to the benefits system

According to the charities, disabled people face “losing £3.7 billion by 2022” because of the changes, leaving “those with long-term conditions without vital financial support.”

Phil Reynolds, co-chair of The Disability benefits Consortium (DBC) and Policy and Campaigns Adviser at Parkinson’s UK said;

“Across the DBC we have had our helpline and advice services inundated by calls about PIP since it was introduced. Instead of supporting disabled people, the benefits system seems increasingly rigged against them.

“The whole system needs urgent improvement, in order to accurately assess the support they need.

“Disabled people cannot afford to wait.”

Letter to Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work:

Dear Minister,

Changes to Personal Independence Payment

We, the undersigned, as national organisations representing disabled people, are deeply concerned by imminent changes to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which will leave at least 160,000 disabled people and those with long-term conditions without vital financial support.

The decision to amend PIP following Upper Tribunal judgments means that disabled people face losing £3.7 billion by 2022. We believe this undermines the principle of the PIP assessment and its ability to fairly provide financial support, regardless of impairment or condition.

PIP helps to cover essential and unavoidable extra costs faced by disabled people. Research by Scope shows that disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on disability related expenditure, including increased energy bills, specialist equipment and insurance. Those with mental health issues, learning disabilities and autism face just as severe barriers and costs as those with other impairments – these changes fail to acknowledge this.

We are also worried that the full scale and impact of these changes will not be understood before they come into effect. The Impact Analysis acknowledges a ‘significant risk that the numbers affected could be much higher’ than currently estimated.

Our helpline and advice services have been inundated by calls about PIP since it was introduced. In far too many cases we hear that the system is continuing to fail people. The confusion and concern caused by these changes highlights the need for the system to be urgently improved. It must work for disabled people and accurately assess the support they need.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you further.

Yours sincerely:
1. Steve Ford, Chief Executive, Parkinson’s UK
2. Liz Carroll, Chief Executive, The Haemophilia Society
3. Teresa Catto-Smith, Chief Executive, Autism in Scotland
4. Sonya Chowdhury, Chief Executive, Action for M.E
5. Ailsa Bosworth MBE, Chief Executive, National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society
6. Philip Lee, Chief Executive, Epilepsy Action
7. Chris Mackie, Director, AdvoCard
8. Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive, Royal Mencap Society
9. Karen Walker, Chief Executive, Multiple System Atrophy Trust
10. Billy Watson, Chief Executive, SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health)
11. Mark Lever, Chief Executive, National Autistic Society
12. Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
13. Brian Carlin, Chief Executive, Aspire
14. David Ramsden, Chief Executive, Cystic Fibrosis Trust
15. Debbie Cook, Chief Executive, National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS)
16. Amanda Batten, Chief Executive, Contact a Family
17. Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind
18. Deborah Gold, Chief Executive, National AIDS Trust
19. Steve Scown, Chief Executive, Dimensions
20. Kate Lee, Chief Executive, CLIC Sargent
21. Gillian Morbey, Chief Executive, Sense
22. Jill Allen-King, National Federation of the Blind of the UK
23. Dave Webber, Chief Executive, Livability
24. Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive, Scope
25. Barbara Gelb OBE, Chief Executive, Together for Short Lives
26. Peter Corbett, Chief Executive, Thomas Pocklington Trust
27. Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness
28. Neil Heslop, Chief Executive, Leonard Cheshire Disability
29. Liz Sayce OBE, Chief Executive, Disability Rights UK
30. Michelle Mitchell OBE, Chief Executive, MS Society
31. Kate Steele, Chief Executive, Shine
32. Andy Kerr, Chief Executive, Sense Scotland

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