I am extremely disappointed by the Government’s recent announcement to introduce emergency legislation changes to Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
PIP helps chronically sick and disabled people fund their living costs and, in particular, the additional financial costs faced by disabled people. Disability charity Scope has estimated that these additional costs amount to approximately £550 a month. Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people as a result of these additional costs, and PIP is a key source of income to prevent real hardship. Currently 600,000 disabled people are in receipt of the payment.
Not one, but two, tribunals have ruled that the Government should expand the reach of PIP. But instead of listening to the court’s criticisms of PIP assessments, the Government has decided to undermine the legal basis of the rulings by stopping the change going ahead.
The first judgement held that needing support to take medication and monitor a health condition should be scored in the same way as needing support to manage therapy, like dialysis, undertaken at home. The second held that someone who cannot make a journey without assistance due to psychological distress should be scored in the same way as a person who needs assistance because they have difficulties navigating.
The Government, including the Prime Minister, have repeatedly stated that they are committed to ‘parity of esteem’ for mental health, yet Ministers are ignoring mental health conditions and subverting the independent Tribunal judgement on PIP. By shifting the goal posts, the Tory Government will strip entitlements from thousands of disabled people, money which the courts believe is rightfully theirs. In actual fact, the Government’s equality assessment showed how 164,000 would miss out on much needed support. The tribunal’s decision’s illustrates exactly how the PIP assessment process is just not fit for purpose.
So far there has been no scrutiny of these regulations, the Government did not even consult the Social Security Advisory Committee before announcing the changes. That is why as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary I have called for an urgent debate by submitting a cross-party Early Day Motion demanding the Government to allow Parliament the opportunity to properly scrutinise these regulations.
In addition, my colleague Stephen Timms MP was granted an Urgent Question on this issue last Tuesday in the Commons, at which I spoke for the Frontbench. You can read the full debate here. Jeremy Corbyn MP also led on this issue at PMQs last Wednesday.
In terms of media, I appeared on Channel 4, BBC News Live, LBC and ITV on Monday last week as well as the Victoria Derbyshire programme on Tuesday 28th February opposing the PIP changes. In addition to this, I have been extensively quoted in the national media since the Government laid the regulations on Thursday 23rd February – initially in the Mirror but subsequently Independent, Guardian, Buzzfeed news, FT etc. There is a petition calling on the Government to scrap these cuts here.
I will not stand by as this Government makes further draconian cuts to disability benefits. I will continue to do everything I can to press the Government to halt these cuts.