22 February 2011

There are strong indications that the government plans to end mobility payments to PIP claimants once they reach pensionable age.  It also seems likely that DLA for children is to be replaced by PIP, in spite of ministers’ claims that no decision has been reached.

Two rates
Last week’s welfare reform bill confirmed that personal independence payment (PIP) will be less generous than DLA, but gave little more in the way of definite details about PIP, which is set to replace DLA for working age claimants starting from 2013.   

The bill confirms that there will be a mobility component of PIP, with a standard and an enhanced rate, and a daily living component, also with a standard and an enhanced rate.  Thus there will only be two rates of what is the care component under DLA, rather than three.


We also now know that Pip is less generous in its qualifying periods. 

For DLA, you need to have had your care or mobility needs for at least three months and be likely to have them for at least another six before a claim can be paid. Under PIP you will have to have had your needs for at least six months and be likely to have them for at least another six before being eligible.

The extra three months waiting time could make a big difference to the hardship suffered by someone who, for example, has had a very severe stroke and has considerable extra needs from the day they leave hospital.

Residential care
It has also been confirmed by the bill that neither component of PIP will be paid to claimants in residential care.  The government has recently been engulfed in a controversy about ending DLA mobility payments to people in residential care, which they claim overlap with support provided by local authorities.  There has been some backtracking on this issue by David Cameron, but it seems that the intention to prevent care home residents being able to get out and about is still a very firm one – it may just have to wait until PIP is rolled out to be implemented in full.

Pensionable age
What is not certain, is what happens to PIP claimants once they reach pensionable age.  The bill states clearly that PIP cannot be paid beyond pensionable age.  This means that when PIP comes to an end claimants will need to replace it with another benefit, if they are not to have a big cut in income.

However, male claimants will be too old to make a claim for DLA, which must be made before your 65th birthday – and it will not be possible to make a claim for DLA whilst you are still eligible for PIP.  Female claimants will still be young enough to make a claim for DLA when PIP first comes in, but pensionable age for women is intended to rise to 65 between April 2016 and November 2018.

This leaves attendance allowance (AA) as the only other option for former PIP claimants.  Attendance allowance has two care rates, which have virtually the same qualifying conditions as the middle and higher rates of DLA.  But it has no mobility component whatsoever.  On the face of it then, the welfare reform bill means that many current recipients of DLA, including those with a Motability car, will lose their mobility payments once they have been transferred to PIP and reach the age of 65.

It is worth noting that the consultation on PIP, which ended on 18 February – after the welfare reform bill was published – had this to say about age limits:

“Individuals who receive the benefit before reaching 65 may continue to receive
Personal Independence Payment if their needs continue. We will keep the upper
age limit for receiving the new benefit under review, given the changes being 
made to the State Pension age.”

We must stress that the DWP have given no clear indication that ending mobility payments for people over 65 is what they are planning, but the welfare reform bill certainly makes this a real possibility.

We know that a number of individuals and organisations are seeking clarification of this issue and we’ll let members know as soon as any more certain news becomes available.

There is also uncertainty about what will happen to sick and disabled children in the benefits shake-up. 

The coalition have, elsewhere in the bill, removed the ESA in youth provision which allows young people to claim contribution-based ESA without having worked and paid national insurance.  So it is clear that they have no qualms about cutting the income of young people who have been sick or disabled from a very early age.

In relation to ESA ministers have stated that they have yet to make up their minds about whether children under 16 would be included in the new PIP benefit. However, there are indications in the bill that the decision has, in fact, been made.

The welfare reform bill contains provision for the introduction of a mobility component which can only be claimed if ‘the person is of or over the age prescribed for the purposes of this subsection’.  This is the currently the case with the DLA mobility component, where there is a lower age limit of three for higher rate mobility and of five for lower rate mobility.  This is to take into account the fact that babies and very young children have only limited independent mobility in any case.

However, if PIP cannot be claimed by children under 16 then it makes no obvious sense to impose a lower age limit on the mobility component. 

Just as importantly, there is no such lower age limit for the two daily living components of PIP – they can, it seems, be paid as soon as the claimant reaches six months of age.

Again there has been no definite announcement on this issue from ministers, but the logic of the welfare reform bill makes any conclusion other than that DLA for children is to be abolished and replaced with PIP hard to support.  We’ll keep members informed as more information becomes available.


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