Thank you for your email regarding the emergency debate that was called on the changes to PIP. This is such an important topic as it affects many people in the constituency. You should be aware that around £50 billion of public money a year is spent to support people with disabilities and health conditions. Though spending on disability benefits has risen by over £3 billion in real terms since 2010, and will remain higher in each year, it is important to note that it has been designed to focus much needed support on people who have higher costs associated with their condition. Entitlement is not based on what condition a person has, but on how their condition affects their ability to live an independent life.
It may be reassuring to know that I have been told that claimants will not see a reduction in the amount of PIP previously awarded by the Department for Work and Pensions. I am further confident that the PIP assessment process has been extensively reviewed to ensure it is robust, the claims process is as straightforward as possible, and decisions are made based on the evidence provided. Since the PIP was introduced, only 6% of initial decisions have gone to appeal and only 3% have been overturned.
When cases are overturned, it is usually because new evidence is submitted which was not previously supplied. Further to this, mandatory Reconsiderations have been introduced to give claimants the opportunity to have their decision reviewed much sooner than at appeal. While this reform is working, the DWP is reviewing its processes to ensure that it does gather all relevant evidence ahead of any appeal hearing.
In regards to mental health, PIP has been designed to better reflect our modern understanding of disability, including the important point of giving mental health conditions the same recognition as physical ones. While there is still a need for improvement, I am pleased to say that over two thirds of PIP recipients with a mental health condition now receive the enhanced daily living component, compared with 22% who used to receive the higher rate under Disability Living Allowance. I have been assured that PIP claimants with mental health conditions will continue to be properly supported after these amendments have been made. The changes are simply about ensuring that the assessment criteria properly reflect the barriers to independence a claimant faces, and the costs they might incur as a result.
With this in mind, it is important to recognise that the intention of the PIP and these amendments is not to make any new savings, but to reiterate the original policy intent, following legal judgments, in which the existing regulations were not completely clear. PIP is an important source of support for many disabled people, and these changes will ensure those people continue to be supported.
Thank you once again for raising this with me, please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any further information.
Derek Thomas MP
For St Ives, West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.