There’s going to be some major changes to the way the Government gives money to people with disabilities. Chancellor George Osborne confirmed in his budget on Wednesday that it is going to be harder for people to be paid the highest amount of money available under the the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Labour and a large number of charities have been massively critical of the changes.
PIP is a non-means-tested welfare benefit that is paid out based on an assessment of how severe someone’s disability is. The way in which that assessment is made is going to be changed in January. You can see the relevant excerpt from the budget below.
A lot of people are very angry about the change, not least Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn. Here is how he responded to George Osborne’s budget in the House of Commons’. The added emphasis is ours
“This budget has unfairness at its very core, paid for by those who can least afford it. [Osborne] could not have made his priorities clearer, while half a million people with disabilities are losing over one billion in personal independence payments, corporation tax is being cut and billions being handed out in tax cuts to the very wealthy … I simply ask the Chancellor this — if he can finance the giveaways that he’s put in his budget to different sectors, why can’t he fund the need for dignity for the disabled people of this country.”
One of the problems with understanding the changes to PIP is that the benefits system is pretty complicated. Here’s everything you need to know about PIP, the changes to it, and why Labour are attacking it so hard.
How it works
PIP is paid to peoples between the ages of 16 and 64, specifically to help them with the extra costs caused by long-term health problems. They get between £21.80 and £139.75 a week.
PIP payments are divided by two, there is a daily living component and a mobility component. And, to make it even more complicated each of those components are divided into two rates — standard and enhanced. Here is how it breaks down:
Daily living component weekly rate — Standard £55.10. Enhanced £82.30.
Mobility component weekly rate — Standard £21.80. Enhanced £57.45.
Whether someone gets the standard or enhanced weekly rate depends on how many disability “points” they are awarded in a physical assessment of their health. If they get eight points they qualify for the standard rate and if they get 12 they are eligible for the enhanced rate.
This is where the change will be made. When PIP recipients are being assessed for the mobility component, they currently are awarded two points if they need an aid, such as a walking stick, to get dressed or go to the toilet.
Osborne’s changes will reduce the amount of points they get to one.
It might not sounds like much, but the tiny change will mean lots of people are going to just miss out on getting the enhanced rate.
Why the Tories are doing it
The change will mean 640,000 people will be receiving less money from the government by 2020. That translates to a saving of £1.2 billion.
The government needs to save money. They have already breached their own self-imposed benefits cap and something has to give.
The government are spinning the cut as a “change which will ensure that PIP is fairer and targets support at those who need it most.”
Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people says that the enhanced mobility money is only supposed to go to those who need need the money because their mobility issues give them extra costs. This translates as — if you use a walking stick to get to the bathroom, it sucks, but it doesn’t cost you anything.
“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.”
Opposition to the changes
Unsurprisingly, Labour are going big on this. They commissioned some analysis which argues the changes will cut 200,000 people out of the PiP system altogether and will reduce drop 400,000 people from the enhanced to the standard rate.
But some are warning the impact of the change could be even worse.
Michelle Mitchell, the chief executive of the MS Society, says people with multiple sclerosis “could lose up to £150 a week.”
The £150 figure comes from the fact that the British benefits system is infuriatingly complicated and messy.
Basically, the claim is that some PIP claimants qualify for other benefits as a result of being on the enhanced mobility rate. Disability campaigners say there are more than 12 possible benefits that someone could miss out on if they are bumped down to the standard rate.
So, Tories are claiming they need to make “fairer” payment to save money and Labour are accusing the Tories of launching a cruel attack on the poor. As you can see, there is more to the PIP changes than a debate over people using a stick to get to the loo.
The simple fact is that lots of Britons think there are people who are receiving benefits they shouldn’t be. A poll found that 75% of British people believe “too much money is being wasted on paying benefits to people who don’t need them.”
It wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility for the Tories to have made a political calculation here and decided that this is a cut that won’t cost them much support with the public.
On the other hand, this is gift for Labour and other political opponents who consistently try to paint the Tories as “the nasty party.”
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