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Disabled pensioners will no longer be required to attend repeat assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in order to prove their eligibility, the Work and Pensions Secretary is expected to say.

Amber Rudd MP will tell charities in her first speech on disability since becoming the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions that around 270,000 disabled pensioners will be saved from repeat tests.

The change is expected to come in to force in the spring and could mean that disabled pensioners will continue to receive PIP indefinately. It may also help to safeguard Carer’s Allowance for those eligible for the benefit.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd MP. Photo: Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0]

It is reported that Rudd will use her speech on Tuesday to talk about her own family’s experience of supporting someone with a disability.

Ms Rudd will say: “My father became blind in 1981. For thirty-six years his blindness was a normal part of my family’s life. Of my life.

“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.”

She is also expected to announce her intention to merge the Work Capability Assessment and PIP assessment regimes into a single test, in order to create a more “joined-up” benefits system, together with a review of the Government’s commitment to get a million more disabled people into work by 2027.

Photo credit: Knox O (Wasi Daniju) via photopin cc

Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “This announcement is a drop in the ocean when compared to the suffering caused by the Conservatives’ cruel Personal Independence Payment and Work Capability Assessments.

“Labour will end both of these assessments in their entirety, replacing them with a framework that treats disabled people with dignity and respect.

“Labour will also end the pointless stress of reassessments for people with severe long-term conditions.”

Charities have welcomed the news but say reforms need to go much further, whilst also calling on Amber Rudd to exempt more people from repeat assessments.

Mark Hodgkinson, Chief Executive at disability charity Scope, said: “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.

“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.”

Michael Griffin, Senior Policy and Campaigns Advisor at Parkinson’s UK, said: “While this is a positive announcement by the secretary of state for work and pensions, unfortunately it is only a minor improvement to a fundamentally flawed system.

“Even with this change, there are still more than 6,000 people with Parkinson’s who won’t be protected from the unnecessary and stressful PIP reassessments.

“Under PIP, people are not being given the right decision first time and are forced to appeal at a tribunal, where 72 per cent of decisions are over-turned anyway.”

According to the latest statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), almost three quarters of PIP claimants (72%) who appeal to a social security tribunal win their cases.