Changes to personal independence payment (PIP) mobility and to the PIP activity of managing medication are due to come into force on 16th March, in spite of strong opposition and increasing evidence that the government are being less than honest in claiming that the changes will not affect any current claimants.
Below, we have an update on everything that’s happening that we are aware of. This includes a petition, an early day motion and a letter from the Social Security Advisory Committee.
As matters stand, however, it seems extremely likely that the changes to PIP, which will make it much harder for claimants with mental health conditions to get an award of the mobility component, will come into force as planned.
There’s a petition on the subject on 38 degrees entitled Treat people with mental health issues fairly under PIP which had attracted over 170,000 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.
Advice to decision makers
The DWP have issued advice to decision makers about the new regulations, complete with examples.
The Social Security Advisory Council (SSAC), who were not consulted about the new regulations before they were introduced because the government regarded the matter as too urgent, have held a meeting and written a letter to Penny Mordaunt, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work.
In the letter, SSAC have challenged the DWP’s claim that no existing claimants will be affected by the new regulations. They point out that some claimants may have been awarded the mobility component on the basis of Upper Tribunal decisions that found in favour of taking psychological distress into account. As a result, these claimants will lose out in the future when their award is reviewed. This is unquestionably true.
SSAC have recommended that the DWP “should explore further the impact of these regulations on existing awards.”
SSAC also argue that when claimants have multiple difficulties with following a journey, it may be impossible to “strip out the element of psychological distress from other factors when making a decision. As a result it may well be that it is not consistently treated in these circumstances.”
SSAC have recommended that the DWP considers:
a) testing the proposed changes with health care professionals and decision makers to ensure the policy intent behind the regulation is clearly understood; and
b) reviewing the descriptors to make sure they are clearly defined and remove ambiguity, for example making explicit reference to “for reasons such as psychological distress alone”.
In relation to the changes to managing therapy, SSAC point out that as the claimed costs of not changing the regulations are both, according to the DWP, much lower and also unclear there is little justification for arguing that the regulations are urgent.
SSAC therefore recommends that:
the Department should both (a) consult more widely with representative bodies and health care professionals; and (b) improve the estimate of likely impact before the changes are introduced.
Early Day Motion
126 MPs have signed an early day motion ‘praying’ against the new regulations. In theory this could lead to the regulations being annulled, though in practice it is decades since such a motion actually succeeded in doing so. It should, however, result in a debate being held.
At this point there is little evidence of a revolt by Tory backbenchers, which would be needed to overturn the regulations. So far, not a single Conservative MP has signed the motion.