A legal challenge brought against the government’s disability benefit reforms failed today after a judge ruled that strict new eligibility criteria is “legal”.
Welfare reforms mean Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for sick and disabled people.
A toughening of the eligibility criteria for the new benefit includes a requirement that disabled people must be able to demonstrate that they can walk no more than 20 metres comfortably, if they are to qualify (be eligible) for the higher rate of the PIP Mobility component.
Solicitors argued that the decision to alter the eligibility criteria was made without fair consultation. They also argued that the government was determined to push through the change regardless of the results of the consultation, or the very real and significant concerns raised by charities, disabled people and medical experts.
Although the court was highly critical of the government’s decision process and acknowledged the potential impact on disabled people, the judge ruled that the new qualifying criteria for PIP is “legal”.
Claire Nurden, co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium and Senior Policy & Campaigns Officer at the MS Society, said:
“Today’s result is bitterly disappointing. The case was a real opportunity to challenge the government about a decision that’ll have a devastating impact on more than half a million disabled people.
“PIP is intended to help those most in need but it is exactly these people that are set to lose. We would strongly support an appeal of this decision.”
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures suggest that stricter eligibility conditions are resulting in 46% of new PIP claims being unsuccessful (figure includes withdrawn claims).
Of those disabled people who were successful in their claim for PIP up to February 2014:
- 10% received the Mobility component only
- 68% received both the Mobility and ‘Daily Living’ components.
- 22% received the Daily Living Award only.
- Close to 20,000 claimants received the higher rate (enhanced) version of the PIP Mobility component, compared to around 10,000 who were awarded the lower (standard) rate.
- 29% were assessed under Special Rules for Terminally Ill people.
- 31% were assessed as having a malignant disease as their main disability, and 21% as mental illness