The UK Government’s failed attempts at reducing the cost of disability benefits has been laid bare in a damning new report from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
The Government’s own financial watchdog has revealed that the DWP’s flagship Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a benefit supposedly designed to support disabled people with every-day living costs, costs the Department more per year that the benefit it replaces – despite Government promises that it will be less costly for ‘taxpayers’.
In its new report, the OBR says the Government has dramatically under-estimated the cost to the public purse of replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with PIP.
Their analysis reveals that spending on disabled people’s benefits has increased by five percentage points, despite the original aim of reducing it by around a fith.
It shows that PIP costs £2bn more per year than DLA, in spite of a Government commitment to reduce the burden by around a fith (1/5).
“Far from significantly reducing spending as planned, the introduction of PIP appears to have raised it,” the OBR said.
“Indeed, PIP appears to cost more than a continuation of DLA would have done.”
Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Frank Field MP said: “DWP told us PIP would save taxpayers money and introduce a fair, transparent assessment process.
“Today’s report lays bare that it has achieved neither. Far worse, though, is that the PIP assessments are riddled with repeated and serious errors and have caused untold anxiety and misery for far too many of the people who rely on the benefit to live.”
Ken Butler, Welfare Rights and Policy Officer at Disability Rights UK, said: “The OBR’s findings will feel like a kick in the teeth to the many thousands of disabled people whose incomes, independence and physical and mental well-being has been blighted by PIP.
“Those hardest hit by austerity have been disabled people and this has been a deliberate result of Government policy.
“Just one example is our Freedom of Information Act request response which shows that around half of DLA claimants who were in receipt of its higher mobility rate are still being refused the enhanced rate mobility component on their moving to PIP.
“In effect, this means that around half of DLA claimants have lost potential entitlement to the Motability scheme.
“Those disabled people who have lost all entitlement to mobility support have lost £59.75 per week (the equivalent of £3,107 per year).
“PIP is not just failing those disabled people deliberately excluded by its severe eligibility restrictions.
“It is also failing those disabled people who are wrongly being refused entitlement to it.
“Over 70% of PIP (and ESA) appeals are found in favour of the claimant.
“What the Government needs to do is completely overhaul the flawed PIP system and replace it with one that identifies the true extra costs of living with disability.”
Official Government figures show that appeals against PIP decisions have hit an all-time high, with well over half of appeals ruling in favour of claimants at tribunal.
This has led to calls for radical reforms to the PIP assessment system, with some calling for the process to be scrapped entirely.
Last year, the DWP said those with chronic illnesses will no longer be subjected to repeat PIP assessments, with particular concerns expressed against the 20-metre rule.
Opponents argued the crude rule failed to acknowledge fluctuating medical conditions, where people may be able to walk more than 20 metres on some days but not on others.
Others have expressed concerns that disability cuts have piled further pressure on an already struggling NHS, as sick and disabled people are forced to turn to hospitals because of ongoing disability benefit changes.
A government spokesperson said: “Our priority has always been to ensure disabled people get the support they’re entitled to.
“PIP is designed to focus support on people with the greatest needs and that’s happening, with 31% of people getting the highest level of support, compared to 15% under DLA.
“As with any major new benefit we have been flexible and adapted our approach, and we continue to make improvements to ensure PIP is working in the best way possible.”