The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced plans to cut entitlement for the Daily Living Component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), by halving the number of points awarded to disabled people who rely on aids and appliances for some daily living activities, from 2 to 1.
The Government also admitted that it is “considering options for the long-term reform of disability benefits and services”.
The Telegraph reports that the £1.2bn raid on PIP could be used to fund tax cuts for higher earners. According to “insiders”, the cuts would give Chancellor George Osborne the opportunity to lift “hundreds of thousands” of people out of the 40p tax rate in next weeks budget.
To qualify for the Daily Living Component of PIP, disabled people must score at least 8 points for the standard rate (£55.10 a week) or 12 points for the enhanced rate (£82.30 a week). The full PIP descriptors can be found here.
In responding to the public consultation, which offered five possible reforms to PIP, the DWP argued the changes were necessary “to ensure that PIP achieves its original policy objectives”.
The department also argued: “Further work by DWP health professionals has found that aids and appliances are not a reliable indicator of extra costs in all cases.
“In 96% of the cases they reviewed their view was that claimants were likely to have low, minimal or nil on-going extra costs.
“Many of the aids and appliances likely to be used are also often provided free of charge by the NHS and local authorities or can be purchased for a low one-off cost.”
They added: “This revised approach should help ensure that the points available for aids and appliances are a more accurate proxy for extra costs incurred and support the original policy intent of PIP to focus support on those with the greatest need.”
Opponents says the move will remove £1.2 billion of support from people who, through no fault of their own, are unable to manage toilet needs or dress unaided, affecting more than 600,000 disabled people.
This change will apply to new claims, and those who report a change of circumstances, from 1 January 2017. The change will also affect existing claimants whose PIP award is reassessed.
Other options considered by the DWP were a lump sum payment, a lower weekly payment, a new condition of entitlement or a new definition of aids and appliances.
Labour accused the Government of “ignoring the views of disabled people, carers and experts”, who in responding to the public consultation expressed serious concern about the impact of any reforms to PIP on disabled people and public services.
Debbie Abrahams MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People, said:
“Just a week after forcing through cuts to support that will take over £1,500 a year from disabled people, the Tories have today snuck out a proposal to take away a further £1.2 billion, by removing support from people who are not able to manage toilet needs or dress unaided. This will mean that over 600,000 disabled people are set to lose almost £2,000 a year.
“In coming to this decision, the Tories are yet again ignoring the views of disabled people, carers and experts in the field, trying to press ahead with changes, just two years since the introduction of the system. While their own proposals admit that the vast majority of respondents did not think the case for change had been made.
“Labour rejected entirely the principles underlying the consultation, all of the proposed ‘options’ impact harmfully on disabled people and removing support for people who need help to use the toilet or dress is an attack on dignity.
“Tory cuts have already taken over £24 billion in support from disabled people, these further cuts would represent another huge blow making life even more difficult for many people who already facing huge barriers.”
Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “This change is another unwelcome blow to disabled people’s independence, and will impact on people’s ability to work, enjoy family life and take part in the communities they live in.”
Michelle Mitchell, MS Society chief executive, added: “This decision could have a devastating impact on the lives of people with MS. In the worst cases, they could lose up to £150 a week.
“PIP is an essential benefit which goes towards the extra cost of being disabled.”
This article was last edited at 02:14 on 12 March 2016