DR UK Responds To Proposed Changes To Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Mon,29 April 2024
News Benefits
The government has announced plans to overhaul the benefits system with a green paper due to be published that will set out plans to change personal independence payments (PIP), the main disability benefit for adults, through changes to eligibility criteria and assessments.

Personal Independence Payment is a vital piece of social infrastructure, and the clear agenda of the Government's latest proposal is to reduce the number of Disabled people receiving the crucial support we rely on. Because of punitive government policies over the last decade, we have already lost average benefit payments of around £1,200 a year.

Despite polling suggesting the public supports spending more money on our social security system, the government has suggested that its proposals, which include a “move away from a fixed cash benefit system,” will mean many Disabled people will no longer receive regular benefit payments. Instead, they have suggested implementing a voucher system alongside “access to treatments” if our impairment does not involve extra costs.

Being offered vouchers is more than an insult; it is dangerous. We all want the right support when needed, and vouchers will not improve our lives. Instead, they will shut us off from our communities, leaving thousands without access to crucial services and support. This never-ending focus on tackling the myth of individual fraud costs billions – which everyone but this government would rather spend on providing a proper social safety net.

It was incredibly disappointing to hear Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, discuss our experiences as Disabled people with such clear disdain. The language was belittling to all of us Disabled people, suggesting that the experience we all share as Disabled people – of exclusion, suspicion and isolation has nothing to do with the Government’s slash-and-burn approach to public services is as embarrassing as it is inaccurate.

What the latest batch of MPs on media rounds has failed to mention is that the UK already has one of the least generous welfare systems in Western Europe. Between 2008 and 2019, Disabled people lost an average of £1,200 a year due to a series of cuts and reforms, including the introduction of Employment and Support Allowance, the Work Capability Assessment, Personal Independence Payment, the bedroom tax, the benefit cap, the two-child limit, and Universal Credit.

A reduction in financial support can be difficult for anyone. But for Disabled people, it’s devastating. A household with at least one Disabled adult or child needs an additional £975 a month to have the same standard of living as non-disabled households, according to Scope disability rights charity.

The government is aware of the mental anguish our threadbare welfare system causes. Coroners have warned Mel Stride that the system can worsen symptoms of mental illness after a man whose “anxiety was exacerbated by his application for Universal Credit” died by suicide. The number of secret reviews into the deaths of benefit claimants carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has also more than doubled over the past three years.

Rather than focusing on blaming us, it is the policies of the DWP that are not working. Their punishing approach, which is obsessed with austerity, sanctions and conditionality, has fuelled increases in disability and sickness by under-resourcing not just the social security system but also health services, social care, education, housing and transport, excluding us from opportunities and driving us into poverty.

The social security system should be an essential public service that ensures everyone has access to the right support when they need it. But after years of dire cuts and reforms, it has been torn apart. We will not hold our breath to see England’s political parties push back against the tide of misinformation, demonisation and disablism that this government and its media outriders launder.

Instead, our community will come together, and this must be our moment to create a system co-produced with us and built on respect, dignity, and support that enables us to live the lives we deserve. We should introduce a Guaranteed Decent Income—based on 50% of the minimum wage—and do away with punitive sanctions, benefit caps, bedroom tax, conditionality, a five-week wait for the first payment, and the two-child limit.

These are must-haves to create a system where everyone has chances and is valued and treated as equal citizens. One that pushes through the barriers of this cross-party consensus on inflicting suffering, which is completely out of line with the general public's views.