I have received a lot of correspondence from constituents about the recent announcements about Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
This Government is committed to ensuring that our welfare system is a strong safety net for those who need it and I am proud that we spend around £50 billion a year - 2.5% of Britain's GDP - supporting people with disabilities and health conditions. The Government has also made a firm commitment to reduce the employment disability gap and in the last three years alone, the number of disabled people in work has increased by nearly 600,000.
Whilst I do sympathise with concerns about the recent announcements, I am assured that there has been no policy change. Contrary to some reports, the Government is not intending to make new savings on its spending on disability benefits and no claimant will see a reduction in the amount of PIP previously awarded to them by the Department for Work and Pensions. This Government is investing more in mental health than ever before - spending a record £11.4billion a year. There are more people with mental health conditions receiving the higher rates of PIP than there were under the old DLA system - more than two thirds of PIP recipients with a mental health condition get the enhanced component compared to just 22% who used to receive the highest rate of DLA care.
At the core of PIP is the principle of equivalence between physical and non-physical conditions and it is designed to give more support to those who are likely to have higher costs associated with their disability. In making this recent announcement, the Government is seeking to clarify the law on assessment criteria and restore the original intention of PIP, which the recent legal judgements had expanded. The Government did not intend for PIP to be awarded on the basis of the medical condition that a person may be suffering with, but on the basis of the extent to which their impairment or health condition affects their ability to live an independent life.
With regards to the statistic of 160,000 people being prevented from receiving financial support as a result of this announcement, the Government has confirmed that this is not the case. The Government's announcement affects just two descriptors of the twelve different attributes considered in each application - it does not automatically deny applicants PIP. Further information about the Government's announcement, including a Written Statement from the Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work, Penny Mordaunt, is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/changes-to-personal-independence-payment-regulations
I will be closely monitoring how this works at a local level and new claimants who feel they are not getting the appropriate and necessary support should contact me at the earliest opportunity.