Sarah shared her views in the July issue of UNITE Magazine in our regular reader’s spot ‘And Another Thing…’
The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton MP, recently announced something that came as a very pleasant surprise to me. She revealed that the government are planning to put an end to ‘unnecessary’ reassessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) later this summer.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is planning to issue new guidance which will mean that PIP claimants who are awarded the highest rate of the benefit, or those whose needs are expected to either stay the same or to increase over time, will now receive PIP for 10 years at a time, after which they will have so-called ‘light touch’ reviews.
Personally, I have not yet been transferred from Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the benefit that PIP started to replace in 2014. I was born with cerebral palsy, so I have been entitled to a lifetime award of DLA since my early childhood. However, I know how lucky I am. As editor of the disability issues website Same Difference, which is currently focusing on disability benefits, I have heard far too many stories of the stress caused to disabled people and carers during the process of applying for PIP, whether through transfer from DLA or as a new claim. So I am currently dreading receiving the letter that will confirm the start of my own transfer process.
Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition for which there is no cure. It rarely significantly improves. Like all disabilities, cerebral palsy affects people at several different levels. I am lucky enough to be able to consider myself mildly affected. However, I know several people with cerebral palsy who are very severely affected. Their situations will never improve. If anything, they may get worse over time. Reassessing people with severe cerebral palsy for PIP at the current interval- two years, sometimes less- is, frankly, pointless. I honestly believe that this costs the DWP more than would be spent if they were simply to provide such claimants with the much-needed and very well-deserved benefit.
Through Same Difference and as a disability campaigner, I have been calling for an end to PIP reassessments for the most severely disabled claimants for a very long time. That is why I warmly welcome the recent announcement by Sarah Newton MP.
Unfortunately, the DWP has not yet revealed exactly when they plan to publish the new guidance. They are also famous among disabled people and carers for breaking their promises. So I will find it very difficult to celebrate this announcement until the guidance is published, and full details of the move are revealed.
Knowing what a positive difference this move will make to the lives of many other disabled people, and their carers, I can’t help looking forward to the publication of this guidance. It will bring with it a victory, not just for disability campaigners, severely disabled people and carers, but also for common sense.