moneyThe government is to change the eligibility criteria for the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), following a review that found the current criteria “may not be working as planned.”

The move follows the publishing of an independent review to ensure the benefit – which was introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance – was meeting its initial purpose of helping people with the extra cost of disability. 

Paul Gray’s review found that the assessment criteria may not be working as planned. A subsequent review of cases by health professionals in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) identified that a significant number of people are likely to be getting the benefit despite having minimal to no ongoing daily living extra costs. 

In addition, DWP data to December 2015 shows that 1 in 3 claimants receiving the daily living component of PIP do so solely as a result of needing aids or appliances. This figure has tripled in 18 months. 

DWP health professionals reviewed a number of these cases and in 96% of them the likely ongoing extra costs of daily living were nil, low or minimal. Many of the aids and appliances for which points are being awarded are likely to be already found in people’s homes, provided free by the NHS and local authorities, or can be bought for a low one-off cost.

The changes will reduce the weight given to the use of aids and appliances in 2 of the 10 daily living activities – dressing and managing toilet needs – from January 2017 but aids and appliances will continue to be recognised through the assessment process. The DWP believes that using an aid or appliance for these two activities less reliably identifies extra costs associated with having a disability. 

Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, said: “The introduction of Personal Independence Payment to replace the outdated Disability Living Allowance for working age claimants has been a hugely positive reform.

“But it is clear that the assessment criteria for aids and appliances are not working as planned. Many people are eligible for a weekly award despite having minimal to no extra costs and judicial decisions have expanded the criteria for aids and appliances to include items we would expect people to have in their homes already.

“We consulted widely to find the best approach. And this new change will ensure that PIP is fairer and targets support at those who need it most.”

Currently a claimant can receive £55 a week by using an aid or appliance in 4 activities, such a preparing food, washing and bathing, managing toilet needs or incontinence and dressing and undressing.

However, the Labour Party and disability organisations have reacted with dismay to the government’s announcement.

Debbie Abrahams MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People, said: “Just a week after forcing through cuts to support that will take over £1,500 a year from disabled people, the Tories have today snuck out a proposal to take away a further £1.2 billion, by removing support from people who are not able to manage toilet needs or dress unaided. This will mean that over 600,000 disabled people are set to lose almost £2,000 a year.

“In coming to this decision, the Tories are yet again ignoring the views of disabled people, carers and experts in the field, trying to press ahead with changes, just two years since the introduction of the system.  While their own proposals admit that the vast majority of respondents did not think the case for change had been made. 

“Labour rejected entirely the principles underlying the consultation, all of the proposed ‘options’ impact harmfully on disabled people and removing support for people who need help to use the toilet or dress is an attack on dignity.

“Tory cuts have already taken over £24 billion in support from disabled people, these further cuts would represent another huge blow making life even more difficult for many people who already facing huge barriers.”

Meanwhile, a statement by Disability Rights UK expressed “regret” at the government’s decision. “In order to qualify for the daily living component under the current assessment, a person must have been assessed as relying on the use of aids and appliances in four fundamental areas. We believe this is a sufficiently high threshold in order to qualify for PIP in this way,” it said. 

“The main disadvantage to the current system of PIP descriptors is that it does not accurately take into account the broad additional costs that many disabled people face as a result of their condition outside of the narrow focus of the daily living activities. For example, the PIP assessment fails to take into account the additional costs of high heating bills if a person is housebound, or increased water bills because a person is incontinent and must regularly wash their clothes. We would like to see an assessment which accurately reflects these additional costs. However, the current system represents a significant improvement over all of the suggested options in the consultation. 

“PIP needs change, but PIP does not need this change.”