Having held a fully-booked advice surgery in Fleetwood last week I’m aware that the Government’s recent announcement to introduce emergency legislation changes to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), may well lead to future advice surgeries being busy with potential changes.
As many will know, PIP helps chronically sick and disabled people fund their living costs and, in particular, the additional financial costs faced by disabled people. Disability charity Scope has estimated that these additional costs amount to approximately £550 a month. Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people as a result of these additional costs, and PIP is a key source of income to prevent real hardship. Currently 600,000 disabled people are in receipt of the payment.
Not one, but two, tribunals have ruled that the Government should expand the reach of PIP. But instead of listening to the court’s criticisms of PIP assessments, the Government has decided to undermine the legal basis of the rulings by stopping the change going ahead.
The first judgment held that needing support to take medication and monitor a health condition should be scored in the same way as needing support to manage therapy, like dialysis, undertaken at home.
The second held that someone who cannot make a journey without assistance due to psychological distress should be scored in the same way as a person who needs assistance because they have difficulties navigating.
So far there has been no scrutiny of these regulations, the Government did not even consult the Social Security Advisory Committee before announcing the changes. That is why Labour have called for an urgent debate by submitting a cross party Early Day Motion demanding the Government to allow Parliament the opportunity to properly scrutinise these regulations.
By shifting the goal posts, the Tory Government will strip entitlements from thousands of disabled people, money which the courts believe is rightfully theirs. In actual fact, the Government’s equality assessment showed how 164,000 would miss out on much needed support. The tribunal’s decision’s illustrates exactly how the PIP assessment process is just not fit for purpose.
There is a petition calling on the Government to scrap these cuts. I will not stand by as this Government makes further draconian cuts to disability benefits.