Consultation launched on curbing PIP payments

The Government has launched a consultation on cutting back on PIP payments to people who are sick and disabled.

Stressed man holds his hands to his face


The Government has launched a consultation to reduce disability and mental health benefit payments and encourage more people with health and disability-related problems to work.

The 12-week consultation on personal independence payments (PIP) – cash benefits paid to 3.3 million people with health problems and disabilities in the UK – follows a speech by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak where he announced plans to tighten the benefits regime in an effort to tackle what he called the UK’s ‘sicknote culture’.

The Government says there are now 2.6 million people of working age claiming PIP and Disability Living Allowance – with 33,000 new awards for PIP each month which is more than double the rate before the pandemic. It says this is expected to cost the taxpayer £28 billion a year by 2028/29 – a 110% increase in spending since 2019. It adds that this is in part due to a rise in people being diagnosed with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

The Modernising Support Green Paper includes proposals to target benefits more.  It will look at whether the current thresholds for entitlement “correctly reflect the need for ongoing financial support”. This includes considering if current descriptors – such as the need for aids and appliances – are good indicators of extra costs. It also proposes changing the qualifying period for PIP in order to ensure the impact that people’s conditions will have on them over time is fully understood and considering whether to change the test used to determine if a condition is likely to continue long-term.

Another controversial proposal is to replace cash payments with vouchers or one-off grants. In addition, it proposes removing the PIP assessment altogether for people with certain long-term health conditions or disabilities, including those with terminal illnesses.

Campaigners have criticised the proposals. Iain Porter, senior policy adviser at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “This [the green paper] is clearly an opportunity for the government to sound tough, but it is on the backs of people who are already facing huge challenges financially as well as with their health.

“People in this position should not be used as a political football. Even if there is no prospect of these changes coming in ahead of the general election, this rhetoric leaves many facing an uncertain future compounded by misinformation and stigma.”

Dan White, policy officer for Disability Rights UK, said: “The clear agenda of the government’s latest proposal is to reduce the number of disabled people receiving the crucial support we rely on.

“Being offered vouchers is more than an insult; it is dangerous. They will shut us off from our communities, leaving thousands without access to crucial services and support.

“Their punishing approach, which is obsessed with austerity, sanctions and conditionality, has fuelled increases in disability and sickness by under-resourcing not just the social security system but also health services, social care, education, housing and transport.”

Employers prioritise health

Meanwhile, a global report from the British Standards Institute found that employee health and employer flexibility are key elements to harness a future age-diverse workforce. It says businesses advocate long-term health support and greater flexibility to diversify the workforce and want government support to create the conditions needed to attract, train and retain age-diverse talent and experience – through tax benefits or other financial incentives.

Asked to rank priorities for policy action business leaders backed tax breaks to encourage employers to invest in employee health and well-being along with financial incentives to encourage them to diversify the talent pool by recruiting older people or investing in retraining, and subsidies for employing workers of different ages. There was, however, limited appetite for governments to formally raise the retirement age or legislate to prohibit age-discrimination.

Another issue for older people with health or caring gaps is their pension payments. HMRC and the DWP this week launched a new online service which allows people to check for and fill any gaps in their National Insurance record to boost their state pension income. Users can select the years they wish to pay to fill the gaps and pay securely through the service.

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