Government in court over disability benefit changes

Court proceedings will begin in Birmingham today to determine whether the Government’s decision to change the eligibility criteria for the disability benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was unlawful.

At the end of 2012 the DWP announced, with no consultation, that the distance people would need to walk in order to qualify for the highest rate of the mobility part of the benefit would change from 50 metres, to just 20 metres.

Now, if disabled people can walk more than 20 metres – even using aids such as sticks – they will no longer qualify for the highest rate of the benefit.

The change could mean a loss of over £33 a week or access to a Motability vehicle, electric wheelchair or mobility scooter – which many use to get to work, college or medical appointments. Government projections show that over half a million people are set to lose out under the new rules (1).

The Disability Benefits Consortium – a coalition of more than 50 UK charities campaigning for a fairer welfare system – has branded the change “life shattering” for disabled people.

Following public pressure, and the start of this judicial review, the Government consulted on the eligibility change last summer; out of more than 1,100 responses received, only five were in favour of the new criteria. Despite this, proceedings have continued and disabled people in certain parts of the UK are to be called, or have already been called, for assessments using the new test.

Lawyers will argue on 9 July that the government failed to carry out a fair consultation before making their decision to adopt the new test for the mobility component of PIP. They’ll say that, by the time the consultation was carried out last year, decisions about how the rest of the scheme would work had already been made, and committed to financially, leaving little scope to make any changes – no matter how people responded.

Claire Nurden, Co-Chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium and Senior Policy & Campaigns Officer at the MS Society, said:

“We have already seen how the Government have failed to listen to concerns about the introduction of PIP, resulting in major delays and devastating impacts on the lives of disabled people. This is yet another example of how grave concerns have been ignored and will have life-shattering results.

“PIP is intended to help those most in need but it is exactly these people that are set to lose. The 20 metre rule is arbitrary; it’s inconsistent with guidance used for the last 35 years which suggests that 50 metres is a more appropriate measure of significant mobility impairment. The Government has presented no new evidence to justify the change.

She continued: “This money is an absolute life line for people – many use it for a Motability vehicle so they can continue to remain independent, travelling to work or medical appointments, or picking up the children from school.

“We have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve had from disabled people who are terrified about what this rule will mean for them. We hope the court case finds the decision unlawful. It is vital that this prompts the government to reinstate the 50 metre qualifying distance.”

The Disability Benefits Consortium also claims the government has failed to justify the decision to change the distance. Claire Nurden added: “The government have argued that the change is justified because the test considers whether people can complete the distance ‘reliably’, but this fails to address the issue because those who can walk between 20 and 50 metres will still lose out.”

This court case is the latest in a series of issues the DWP have experienced with the new disability benefit, the most notable being long delays for new applicants and face to face assessments – with some people waiting up to a year for a decision on whether or not they’re eligible.

The court case begins on 9 July and is expected to last two days, with a decision at a later date.

The Disability Benefits Consortium is a coalition of more than 50 charities and other organisations, including the MS Society, Parkinson’s UK and Disability Rights UK, committed to working towards a fairer benefits system.

Notes to editors
(1) Table 4, P 46, The Government’s response to the consultation on the PIP assessment Moving around activity

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9 thoughts on “Government in court over disability benefit changes

  1. My dla and carers benefits stopped feb 2013 had assessment at home lowered benefit appealed dla dept lost my file including assessment report had to have 2nd home assessment from different doctor who was very rude and hurt me during examination I complained he lowered money completely had tribunal this year was in excruciating pain by time I got to tribunal almost collapsed in pain security had to help get me seated and got me water finally saw tribunal panel was crying in pain but still lost appeal got statement of decision lots of lies are in it welfare rights Rob mcdonald didnt hardly help changed him for new welfare man baljinder bajwa he asked for upper appeal lost request he wrote again and we are now waiting a reply I’m now practically housebound I suffer with many painful conditions of which 1 can and does cause early death I cannot afford to buy a wheelchair am in constant pain and feel im a burden to my family and to society if not for the support from my family I would end my life please help yours desperately Mrs Roberta Betney

  2. If I do not meet the ‘new requirement’, when my PIP assessment comes, my wife and I will be condemned to, what I believe, will be a miserable existence at home, because we will not be able to afford taxi fares to get us out and about. It will mean the difference between a happy, we’ll rounded life, to a miserable existence, at home. We will, in effect, be condemned, for the rest of our lives, to be housebound. We have effectively received a ‘life sentence’. Thanks DWP.

  3. I’ve already been affected by this. I’ve lost my Motability car and am now virtually housebound. Just waiting for the date for my Appeal Tribunal and the stress of all of this has made my health even more precarious than it was before.

    • Just an update:
      I went to Appeal (which was just awful) and had my Higher Rate Mobility reinstated – and fixed for 5 years! The Judge said that it was ridiculous that I had ever been downgraded as it was obvious that my mobility was seriously impaired.
      Good luck anyone who is affected

  4. Why are this government questioning our disabilities? What have we done to deserve their hatred? I need thos to pay for my care in the community as I don’t want to go into a home. David Caneron has gone about this the wrong way. Persecuting those with a genuine disability is disgusting hoe that some body will fight the case

  5. I find your site most gratifying, my partner has just been awarded with the lower element of the Mobility part of PIP, where clearly she should have had the higher element, she has lymphoma and Arthritis in her left foot, and indeed has just been told by her consultant that she will have to loose her foot in the near future, she is in great pain all the time and can not walk more than 20 mtrs with or without the use of aids, it is so unfair it was not her fault she contracted this awful condition and the higher rate would have improved her life a great deal giving her chance to get out and about much more

  6. Both my sons are autistic… And both are able to walk 20 & 50 metres. I currently have a car from my younger sons DLA, of which comes to an end next feb. I rely heavily on this car, like millions of others. My issue is, even though they’re capable of walking, their disability makes them vulnerable. Would this be taken into consideration ..? Or do they only take physical disabilities into consideration. This was supposed to be a fairer system …. I haven’t been able to work for years with having to be there for my boys, my benefits are my lifeline to pay the mortgage etc, to keep my boys warm, fed and looked after …

  7. We’re going backwards with this government not forwards. Back to the times when cripples had to beg on the streets. That what they will have us doing.

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