An emergency debate has been called in the House of Commons today (Wednesday 29 March 2017) after pressure from the public and charities and a vote in the House of Lords on Monday (27 March 2017).
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a benefit 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 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. Last month, 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 came into effect on 16 March. Critics claim that the legislation discriminates against people with mental health problems and may affect over 160,000 people with, for example, severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind said:
“We welcome the Commons debate that has been called, prompted by mounting pressure from campaigners, charities, MPs and Lords. This will be the third time MPs have discussed these changes without being given a meaningful vote by Government on an issue that could affect 160,000 people struggling to live with debilitating mental health conditions. It is clear that the Government still have questions to answer about the rushed legislation.
“We know that the new regulations could prevent people accessing the financial support they need to get to health or job appointments, to pay for fuel and heating, take their children to school or see friends and family – things essential to their daily lives and independence, things essential to preventing isolation.
“In response to Monday's debate in the House of Lords, the Government claimed that someone with a mental health problem can score the highest points on mobility activity alone. We do not believe this is correct. While those who experience symptoms such as confusion or disorientation may remain eligible, the new guidance issued recently to assessors from the Department for Work and Pensions makes clear that psychological distress alone, even if it is totally debilitating, is not sufficient to score the highest rate.
“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. The changes to legislation undermine the Government’s commitment to look at disabled people as individuals, rather than labelling them by their condition, and completely goes against their commitment to putting mental health on an equal footing with physical health.
“We can’t let this go unchallenged – this is the time for the Government to listen to the House of Lords, the Upper Tribunal and the concerns of many organisations and withdraw these changes.”