Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd is today (Feb 5) has announced an overhaul of Personal Independence Payments so pensioners will longer have to endure repeated reviews to receive disability benefits.
But Rudd gave no ground over further reform of welfare ‘reform’ with no commitment to scrap counterproductive benefit sanctions that critics say make it harder for disabled people to find work.
At face value, the Pip 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.
Last month, Rudd conceded to what her predecessors – and current DWP ministers – had repeatedly denied in acknowledging the flawed roll out of Universal Credit as a factor in rocketing food bank use.
But within 24 hours of this concession, the government had fobbed off select committee recommendations to ease the ‘inhumanity’ of DWP sanctions.
Pip is intended to assist the disabled with the extra costs associated with their health condition – recipients can get up to £145.35 a week.
The system has been heavily criticised for forcing claimants to undergo repeated reviews as ordered by the DWP at any time – but usually a year before a time-limited award is due to end.
In the Commons recently, the death rates for those waiting on disability benefit were revealed.
Answering a question put by Labour’s Madeleine Moon, Minister for the Disabled Sarah Newton said 17,070 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claimants died after registering, but before the DWP decided on their claim, between April 2013 and April 2018 .
And 4,760 claimants died between their case being referred to an ‘assessment provider’ and coming back to the DWP.
It was not made clear to the House if 4,760 were included in 17,070 or separate, with the DWP making its final decision after an assessment by a private firm.
Mark Hodgkinson, the chief executive at disability equality charity Scope, called on Rudd to extend the reforms into a “more radical” overhaul of the Pip and ESA [Employment and Support Allowance] tests.
“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,” he said.