Over 30 charity chief executives call on Minister to rethink damaging PIP changes

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Today (15th March) the Chief Executives of over 30 charities and organisations have written an open letter to Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Penny Mordaunt, urging her not to proceed with damaging changes to Personal Independence Payments.

Imminent controversial changes to the eligibility criteria for PIP will leave at least 160,000 disabled people and those with long-term conditions without access to this vital financial support.

Research from the charity Scope shows that disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on disability related expenditure, including increased energy bills, specialist equipment and insurance. PIP helps to cover these essential and unavoidable extra costs faced by disabled people.

The letter makes clear those with mental health issues, learning disabilities and autism face just as severe barriers and costs as those with other conditions – which recent changes by the Minister fundamentally failed to acknowledge.

Signed by 30 members of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) including Parkinson’s UK, The MS Society and Mind, the letter highlights that “the decision to amend PIP following Upper Tribunal judgements means that disabled people face losing £3.7 billion by 2022…this undermines the principle of the PIP assessment and its ability to fairly provide financial support, regardless of condition.”

The letter continues, “we are also worried that the full scale and impact of these changes will not be understood before they come into effect. The Impact Analysis acknowledges a ‘significant risk that the numbers affected could be much higher’ than currently estimated.”

Phil Reynolds, co-chair of The Disability benefits Consortium and Policy and Campaigns Adviser at Parkinson’s UK said;

“Across the DBC we have had our helpline and advice services inundated by calls about PIP since it was introduced.  Instead of supporting disabled people, the benefits system seems increasingly rigged against them.  The whole system needs urgent improvement, in order to accurately assess the support they need. Disabled people cannot afford to wait.”

Letter to Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work

Dear Minister,

Changes to Personal Independence Payment

We, the undersigned, as national organisations representing disabled people, are deeply concerned by imminent changes to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which will leave at least 160,000 disabled people and those with long-term conditions without vital financial support.

The decision to amend PIP following Upper Tribunal judgments means that disabled people face losing £3.7 billion by 2022. We believe this undermines the principle of the PIP assessment and its ability to fairly provide financial support, regardless of impairment or condition.

PIP helps to cover essential and unavoidable extra costs faced by disabled people. Research by Scope shows that disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on disability related expenditure, including increased energy bills, specialist equipment and insurance. Those with mental health issues, learning disabilities and autism face just as severe barriers and costs as those with other impairments – these changes fail to acknowledge this.

We are also worried that the full scale and impact of these changes will not be understood before they come into effect. The Impact Analysis acknowledges a ‘significant risk that the numbers affected could be much higher’ than currently estimated.

Our helpline and advice services have been inundated by calls about PIP since it was introduced. In far too many cases we hear that the system is continuing to fail people. The confusion and concern caused by these changes highlights the need for the system to be urgently improved. It must work for disabled people and accurately assess the support they need.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you further.

Yours sincerely:
1. Steve Ford, Chief Executive, Parkinson’s UK
2. Liz Carroll, Chief Executive, The Haemophilia Society
3. Teresa Catto-Smith, Chief Executive, Autism in Scotland
4. Sonya Chowdhury, Chief Executive, Action for M.E
5. Ailsa Bosworth MBE, Chief Executive, National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society
6. Philip Lee, Chief Executive, Epilepsy Action
7. Chris Mackie, Director, AdvoCard
8. Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive, Royal Mencap Society
9. Karen Walker, Chief Executive, Multiple System Atrophy Trust
10. Billy Watson, Chief Executive, SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health)
11. Mark Lever, Chief Executive, National Autistic Society
12. Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
13. Brian Carlin, Chief Executive, Aspire
14. David Ramsden, Chief Executive, Cystic Fibrosis Trust
15. Debbie Cook, Chief Executive, National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS)
16. Amanda Batten, Chief Executive, Contact a Family
17. Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind
18. Deborah Gold, Chief Executive, National AIDS Trust
19. Steve Scown, Chief Executive, Dimensions
20. Kate Lee, Chief Executive, CLIC Sargent
21. Gillian Morbey, Chief Executive, Sense
22. Jill Allen-King, National Federation of the Blind of the UK
23. Dave Webber, Chief Executive, Livability
24. Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive, Scope
25. Barbara Gelb OBE, Chief Executive, Together for Short Lives
26. Peter Corbett, Chief Executive, Thomas Pocklington Trust
27. Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness
28. Neil Heslop, Chief Executive, Leonard Cheshire Disability
29. Liz Sayce OBE, Chief Executive, Disability Rights UK
30. Michelle Mitchell OBE, Chief Executive, MS Society
31. Kate Steele, Chief Executive, Shine
32. Andy Kerr, Chief Executive, Sense Scotland

DBC responds to Budget 2017

Commenting on the 2017 Spring Budget, Disability Benefits Consortium Policy Group Co-Chair Phil Reynolds said:

Today was a missed opportunity to put a stop to damaging cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and reassure disabled people and those with long-term conditions that they will receive a fair deal if they need additional support in future.

Alongside MPs from all parties, we have warned that the disastrous £1500 per year cut to ESA for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group and the equivalent benefit in Universal Credit will push them further from work and closer to, or deeper into, poverty.

Proposed changes to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will leave at least 150,000 disabled people without vital financial support in future. We’re extremely concerned that these unnecessary regulations undermine the principle of the PIP assessment.

Thousands of disabled people will be bitterly disappointed that the Government has not used today’s Budget to scrap these damaging and unnecessary cuts.’

 

DBC response to Government announcement on changes to PIP regulations

Commenting on the Ministerial announcement made on 23rd February, Rob Holland Public Affairs Manager at Mencap and DBC Parliamentary Co-Chair said

‘We are concerned by these changes to the criteria for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). These risk further restricting access to vital support for thousands of disabled people. Last year, MPs strongly opposed restrictions to PIP and the Government promised no further cuts to disability benefits. Other changes have already had a devastating impact on thousands and in far too many cases people have had to rely on tribunals to access the support they need.

We are deeply disappointed as a coalition of over 80 organisations representing disabled people that we were not consulted about these proposals and their potential impact. The Government must ensure the views of disabled people are properly considered before they proceed with these changes.’

Tell us about your experience of claiming disability benefits

The Disability Benefits Consortium of over 80 charities and organisations has launched its 2017 Big Benefits Survey, which aims to better understand disabled people’s experience of applying for and claiming disability benefits.

Take the Big Benefits Survey here 

We know that disabled people often struggle to get the financial support they need. We want to hear from as many disabled people as possible so we can understand what is and isn’t working well.

The survey asks about claimants’ experiences of the benefits system, particularly Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payment. Responses will be kept anonymous, unless respondees offer to be contacted further.

The anonymous evidence provided will help us to campaign for a fairer benefits system for all disabled people. Anyone who has supported individuals to apply for these benefits is welcome to fill it in of their behalf.

Chancellor fails to address disabled people’s concerns on benefit cuts

23rd November 2016

The DBC is disappointed that the Chancellor has failed to use the Autumn Statement today as an opportunity to act on cross party opposition and widespread concerns from disabled people and charities to halt damaging cuts to support for disabled people.

The Government is continuing with a cut to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Universal Credit (UC) equivalent.

From April 2017, new claimants will face a loss of almost £30 a week. Cuts to the ‘work allowance’ – the amount of money disabled people on UC can keep before they lose benefits, are also going ahead. These changes will push disabled people further from the work place and closer to or deeper into poverty.

In addition nothing has been said on the proposals to ask local authorities to fund the support currently provided by Attendance Allowance (AA) from their business rates for future claimants. This is very worrying as it is likely to lead to reductions in the amount of support people who receive AA get.

While the Chancellor has lowered the ‘taper’ rate within UC for those in work from 65% to 63%, (meaning people in work will keep an additional 2 pence for every pound over the work allowance they earn) this will come as scant consolation for the thousands of disabled people who will be much worse off

MPs vote to postpone cuts to Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit

17th November 2016

We are delighted to see that MPs from across all political parties have listened to concerns of disabled people and charities and voted to postpone the £30 weekly cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit in today’s backbench business debate in the Commons.

The vote to postpone the cuts was won 127 votes to 0 and, while not binding on the Government, the strength of feeling to reverse these cuts in the Autumn Statement is overwhelming.

For over a year the Disability Benefits Consortium together with MPs from across all partieshave been warning of the disastrous effects that a cut to ESA for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group and the equivalent benefit in Universal Credit (due to come in April next year) would have on the lives of disabled people. We firmly believe it would push them further from work and closer to, or deeper into, poverty. We hope the Government listens to these calls and acts swiftly to allay worries among disabled people.

Open letter to Government on second chance to stop ESA cuts

17th November 2016

Ahead of today’s debate in the House of Commons on cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit, over 70 members of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) have signed an open letter (below) to the Government, warning of the devastating effects the cuts would have on people with a disability and urging MPs to take this debate as an opportunity to re-assess the cuts.

“Dear Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,

“With today’s debate MPs have been given a rare second chance to speak out against £30 a week being taken away from sick and disabled people. The £30-a-week cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit has caused deep unease amongst MPs from all parties. We believe this cut will undermine the Government’s welcome commitment to halve the disability employment gap set out in the Green Paper published just last month.

“The Government recently committed to protecting disabled people’s benefits from further cuts, but have decided to continue with this damaging cut to new claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA and within Universal Credit (UC). From April 2017 this cut will affect many people found currently ‘unfit for work’ but will also affect many disabled people in work and on low wages under UC.

“The Government promised further support would be given to disabled people in the WRAG to find work, however the recent Green Paper offers little detail as to where this would come from or how it will mitigate the effects of the cut.

“Almost 70% of sick and disabled people we surveyed say this cut would cause their health to suffer and just under half said they would probably not be able to return to work as quickly. We urge MPs from all parties to act – at a time when 1 in 3 households with a disabled member are living in poverty – and halt this cut immediately.”

Signed:

  1. Action for Blind People
  2. Action Duchenne
  3. Action for M.E.
  4. Action on Hearing Loss
  5. Advice UK
  6. Advocard
  7. Age UK
  8. Ambitious about Autism
  9. Arthritis Care
  10. Arthritis Research UK
  11. Aspire
  12. British Lung Foundation
  13. Capability Scotland
  14. Carers UK
  15. Child Poverty Action Group
  16. CLIC Sargent
  17. Contact a Family
  18. Council for Disabled Children
  19. Crohn’s and Colitis UK
  20. Cystic Fibrosis Trust
  21. Deafblind UK
  22. Dimensions UK
  23. Disability Agenda Scotland
  24. Disability Rights UK
  25. Down’s Syndrome Association
  26. ENABLE Scotland
  27. Epilepsy Society
  28. Epilepsy Action
  29. Equalities National Council
  30. Guide Dogs
  31. Haemophilia Society
  32. Hafal
  33. Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE)
  34. Inclusion London
  35. LASA
  36. Leonard Cheshire Disability
  37. Livability
  38. Mind
  39. Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association
  40. MS Society
  41. Muscular Dystrophy UK
  42. Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) Trust
  43. Myeloma UK
  44. National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society
  45. National AIDS Trust
  46. National Autistic Society (NAS)
  47. National Children’s Bureau
  48. National Deaf Children’s Society
  49. National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society
  50. Niamh
  51. Papworth Trust
  52. Parkinson’s UK
  53. Rethink Mental Illness
  54. Royal British Legion
  55. Royal College of Psychiatrists
  56. Royal Mencap Society
  57. Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
  58. RSI Action
  59. Scope
  60. Scottish Association for Mental Health
  61. Spina bifida Hydrocephalus Information Networking Equality (SHINE)
  62. Sense
  63. Sense Scotland
  64. St Joseph’s Hospice
  65. The Stroke Association
  66. Sue Ryder
  67. Terrence Higgins Trust
  68. Thomas Pocklington Trust
  69. Together For Short Lives
  70. Transport for All
  71. TUC
  72. Vitalise
  73. Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

About the letter

The cuts to the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA and the equivalent in Universal Credit will undermine the Government’s commitment to halving the disability employment gap, which was outlined in the recent Green Paper on Work and Health.

The Government has however suggested that people with disabilities and long-term health conditions who get this benefit are not being incentivised to find work because of the £30-a-week more they get compared to those on Job Seeker’s Allowance.

However, the DBC strongly disputes this claim and a survey of over 500 disabled people found this to be completely false:

  • Almost 7 in 10 (69%) say cuts to ESA will cause their health to suffer
  • More than a quarter (28%) say they sometimes can’t afford to eat on the current amount they receive from ESA
  • Almost half (45%) of respondents say that the cut would probably mean they would return to work later
  • Just 1% said the cut would motivate them to get a job sooner

Disabled campaigners were in Parliament on yesterday meeting their MPs to raise concerns. Pictures of this can be found on twitter under #esacuts as will commentary on today’s debate.