In today’s Spring Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond made no mention of the Government’s plans to change the way Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is awarded in the future. PIP is awarded to cover the extra costs that disabled people face, and is gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance.
Recently the courts 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. But 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.
The budget was an opportunity for the Government to show it has listened to the concerns of many that this change in the law discriminates against people with mental health problems and will leave many people without the support they need.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said:
“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 March 16th 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.”
We need you to help us. We are asking all MPs to sign a parliamentary petition called an EDM. By adding your voice to ours, we can show that these damaging and misguided changes to legislation should not happen. Email your MP now.
We’re also raising the issue in the media, talking to journalists so we can get the message out that mental health matters every bit as much as physical health. We know that people who struggle to leave the house because of anxiety, panic attacks and other mental health problems face extra costs in their everyday lives. People need access to these benefits, to get by, to do the things that help them stay well, to see friends and family, and to live independent lives. Those are the stories we need to be telling right now. Please get in touch if you think you could help by telling your own.
Employment and Support Allowance
The budget also failed to mention the Government’s plans to cut the out-of-work disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by £30 a week. Yet again the budget was an opportunity for the Government to show it had listened to calls for this planned cut to be stopped or at least delayed while the impact it will have on those on ESA can be fully assessed.
This means this damaging cut is still going ahead. Those who apply for ESA and are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group will get the same as those on Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA).
This will affect people who apply for ESA from April this year and who are subsequently placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). People who are currently receiving this support will not be affected.
Responding to this, Paul Farmer, said:
“We are extremely concerned that the Government is going to cut the out-of-work disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by £30 a week.
“A recent report from the Work and Pensions Committee - which includes Conservative MPs - recommended postponing these planned cuts to the financial support available to people who cannot work because of illness or disability, but this hasn’t been taken on board. Reducing someone’s support from about £5,000 to £3,500 a year will make their lives even more difficult and will do nothing to help them return to work.
“People being supported by ESA need to receive a higher rate than those on Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) because they face additional barriers as a result of their illness or disability, and typically take longer to move into work. Almost 60 per cent of people on JSA move off the benefit within 6 months, while almost 60 per cent of people in the WRAG need this support for at least two years. It’s unrealistic to expect people to survive on £73 a week for this length of time. Making massive cuts to the benefits bill will have a knock-on effect on our overstretched NHS services, as people’s mental health deteriorates due to financial worries.”