Minister’s overhaul of personal independence payments does not go far enough, say charities
Mon 4 Mar 2019 21.30 GMT
Last modified on Tue 5 Mar 2019 13.06 GMT
Hundreds of thousands of pensioners will no longer have to undergo reviews to carry on getting their disability benefits, Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, will say on Tuesday.
Rudd is to announce the overhaul of personal independence payments (Pip) for older people, after years of complaints about the system, which requires many claimants to repeatedly prove their entitlement to benefits.
The decision means around 270,000 pensioners who are in receipt of personal independence payments will carry on getting them without having to be reassessed in future.
Rudd will make the announcement in her first speech on disability benefits since being appointed.
A source in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said she wanted to take the government’s welfare policy in a more compassionate direction. Last month, she conceded the rollout of universal credit had contributed to an increase in food bank use, going back on previous ministerial denials.
Rudd, who is considered a potential Tory leadership contender, will use the speech to reflect on her own family’s experience of disabilities.
“My father became blind in 1981. For thirty-six years his blindness was a normal part of my family’s life. Of my life,” she will say.
“I reflected on my father’s lack of sight, and how it affected his life and the lives of those who loved him, as I considered my role in supporting disabled people in Britain.
“Disabled pensioners have paid into our system for their whole lives and deserve the full support of the state when they need it most.
“This government therefore intends to change the landscape for disabled people in Britain: to level the terrain and smooth their path.
“The changes I am setting out today, including stopping unnecessary reassessments for disabled pensioners, are a step forward in improving quality of life for the UK’s 14 million disabled people.”
The personal independence payment is a benefit that helps disabled people with the extra costs associated with their health condition, with recipients getting up to £145.35 a week.
The system has been heavily criticised for forcing claimants to undergo repeated reviews, which can be ordered at any time by the DWP but usually occur a year before a time-limited award is due to end.
Mark Hodgkinson, the chief executive at disability equality charity Scope, which is hosting the speech, called on Rudd to extend the reforms.
“We welcome today’s announcements on Pip but a more radical overhaul of the Pip and ESA [Employment and Support Allowance] tests is needed and we would urge the secretary of state to commit to this further reform,” he said.
“It’s particularly important to improve our benefits system because life costs more if you are disabled. From heating to equipment costs, Scope research shows that disabled people face extra costs adding up to on average £583 per month.
“Disabled people also want to see action taken to scrap counterproductive benefit sanctions. They make it harder for disabled people to get into work.”