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PIP is awarded to cover the extra costs that disabled people face, and is gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance. Recently the Upper Tribunal ruled that people who find it difficult to leave the house because of psychological distress should be able to receive the higher rate of PIP. Two weeks ago, the Government announced that they want to change the law so that they don’t have to follow the court’s ruling.
There has been widespread criticism of the emergency legislation, which will come into effect next Thursday (16 March). Critics claim that the legislation discriminates against people with mental health problems and may affect up to 160,000 people with, for example, severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.
The Government claims that the legislation, which changes the wording of key descriptors that assessors use to decide if someone is eligible for the higher rate of PIP, is merely intended to clarify the original intention of PIP. The Lords committee (the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee) has today described the Government’s approach to these changes as ‘illogical’ and is calling on the Government to review all the descriptors and guidance to ensure they are delivering on the policy intent of PIP.
The Committee says that the Department for Work and Pension’s own Equality Assessment, together with submissions from Tom Brake MP, the Disability Agenda Scotland, the Disability Benefits Consortium, Mind and Muscular Dystrophy UK, indicate the likely negative effects of these changes on claimants, particularly those with mental health problems. The Committee says that “the Government need to make the long-term impact of these changes clear to the House.”
Mind welcomes the Lords stance on the proposals and is calling on the Government to drop the legislation and respect the ruling of the Upper Tribunal.
“People who find it difficult to leave the house because of anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental health problems are as restricted in their independence as many people with physical mobility problems, and face just as many higher costs in their daily lives as other disabled people do. The Government’s changes to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) could affect over 160,000 people with mental health problems - both in and out of work - who have extra costs related to their disability.
“These proposed changes could prevent people accessing the financial support they need to get to health or job appointments, get out to pay for fuel and heating, take their children to school or see friends and family – things essential to their daily lives and recovery, things essential to preventing isolation. The Government says that it is committed to treating mental health as seriously as physical health, but these proposals call this commitment into question. These misguided proposals must be reversed.
“Mind is determined to stop these changes going through. These changes are coming into force on 16 March so we have to act fast. We’ve been talking to MPs and members of the House of Lords, urging them to help us stop these changes from happening. Our legal team is also looking into a possible legal challenge if this legislation comes into force.”