The Government is proposing changes to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance.
PIP is awarded to cover the extra costs that disabled people face. In December courts ruled that people who find it difficult to leave the house because of anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental health problems should be able to receive the higher rate of PIP.
On Thursday the Government brought forward legislation that would stop the court’s judgement from coming into effect. These changes would mean that thousands of people who experience psychological distress when planning or following journeys are only eligible for a lower rate of PIP.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
“People who find it difficult to leave the house because of anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental health problems are as restricted in their independence as many people with physical mobility problems, and face just as many higher costs in their daily lives as other disabled people do. The Government’s changes to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) would affect over 160,000 people with mental health problems - both in and out of work -who have extra costs related to their disability.
“These proposed changes could prevent people accessing the financial support they need to get to health or job appointments, get out to pay for fuel and heating, take their children to school or see friends and family – things essential to their daily lives and recovery, things essential to preventing isolation. The Government says that it is committed to treating mental health as seriously as physical health, but these proposals call this commitment into question. These misguided proposals must be reversed.
“Mind is fighting hard to try to make sure the benefits system works for people with mental health problems. This includes highlighting the negative impact of sanctions, trying to get this damaging change to PIP reversed, and campaigning against the proposed £30 a week cut to the work related activity group (WRAG) of the out-of-work disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Our legal team is also looking into a possible legal challenge if this legislation comes into force.”
A senior aide to the Prime Minister, George Freeman, said yesterday in an interview with BBC 5 Live that "benefits are being given to people who are taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety,"
He said: "We want to make sure we get the money to the really disabled people who need it."
In response, Paul Farmer said:
“Mr Freeman’s comments on PIP appear to support the notion that some mental health problems are not seen as severe enough to warrant support through PIP. We understand that Mr Freeman has his own experiences of anxiety, however it is important to recognise that everyone who has experienced a mental health problem will be affected differently. Mental health problems vary in severity and can fluctuate over time. For many people they can be completely debilitating, and so severe that they can’t leave the house.”
George Freeman has since said he did not intend for his comments to cause any offence.