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PIP is awarded to cover the extra costs that disabled people face, and is gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance. This time last year the Upper Tribunal ruled that people who need support to make journeys because of overwhelming psychological distress should be eligible for the higher rate of PIP to cover the costs of that support. In February, the Government announced that they want to change the law so that they don’t have to follow the court’s ruling.
There was widespread criticism of the emergency legislation, which came into effect in March. Critics claim that the legislation discriminates against people with mental health problems and may be affecting up to 160,000 people with, for example, severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.
At the time, 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 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.
“The changes undermine the Government’s commitment to look at disabled people as individuals, rather than labelling them by their condition, and completely goes against the Government’s commitment to putting mental health on an equal footing with physical health. It also undermines a specific commitment the Government made in 2012, when introducing PIP, that people with mental health problems who struggle to plan or follow journeys would be treated the same as other disabled people. For people with mental health problems, getting the right benefits can mean the difference between whether someone can get to work or appointments, whether they can see friends and family – the same problems that would affect any other disabled person confined to their house.
“In a speech in January, the Prime Minister talked of putting an end to the ‘burning injustices’ that people with mental health problems face every day. This is one such burning injustice.”
Mind has now been granted permission to intervene in support of a High Court case, brought by ‘RF’ and represented by the Public Law Project. RF’s case contends that the new rules are unfair and discriminatory.
Sara Lomri, RF’s solicitor, said:
“Both the EHRC and Mind have extensive experience working with people who have experienced discrimination on the basis of mental ill health and will provide valuable guidance to the court. Our client is heartened that both organisations recognise the negative impact that the discriminatory PIP regulations have on those with mental health impairments, and that they are supporting her claim, in addition to those organisations such as The National Autistic Society and Disability Rights UK who have also written in support.”
Read more about Mind’s campaigning work on this issue.