Therese Coffey, the secretary of state for work and pensions has said that PIP has “grown in a way that was not anticipated” and that it needs to be targeted “even more so to people who need that help”. She also refused to rule out merging PIP with universal credit and said that the benefits system needs to stop “encouraging people to show how they really cannot do any work at all”.
The comments made at a meeting at the Conservative Party Conference, will dismay all those who have already endured the move from incapacity benefit to ESA, based on the idea that ESA would focus on what claimants could do rather than what they could not do.
Many of those same claimants have also faced the move from DLA to PIP, based on the claim that PIP would be better targeted on those who needed support.
Coffey’s comments are particularly ironic given that PIP was promoted by the DWP as being more effective at providing help to claimant with mental health conditions.
Yet the example Coffey chose to give of where PIP is failing was the increased help for young people with mental health issues.
“PIP has certainly grown in a way that was not anticipated when it was introduced.
“To give you an example, three out of four young people who claim PIP have their primary reason being mental ill health.
“That in itself is 189,000 young people who currently receive benefit focused on that. There may be other benefits they receive as well.
“So that’s one of the things where I’m very conscious one of things I’m trying to do as Secretary of State is very much the issues we face are downstream, and what are the things we need to do to get more upstream.
“And I hope that might give us the headroom then to… how is it that people can think the benefit system is fair.
“And I think by being able to target that even more so to people who really need that support, may improve that prospect of public perception.”
In relation to ESA, Coffey said that the original expectation was that only 25% of claimants would be in the support group rather than 80% and that she wanted to change the focus to “what people can do, rather than the benefit system being driven currently by what you cannot do”.
When asked if there were any plans to merge UC and PIP, Coffey refused to rule it out, saying that “everything is on the table”.