Iain Duncan Smith: People Are 'Rushing To Claim DLA Disability Benefits To Avoid New PIP Health Checks'

Iain Duncan Smith has claimed people have been rushing to get their disability benefits before the new system is introduced, inferring claimants are trying to dodge the health checks necessary under new Personal Independence Payments.

The Work and Pensions Secretary made the comments as a petition calling on him to prove his claim he could live on £53 a week for a year was delivered to his offices after being signed by over 450,000 people.

Dominic Aversano, the musician and shop worker who started the petition on Change.org, wheeled the four boxes of the printed petition on a trolley down to Caxton House.

It seemed the 28-year-old was going to be denied entry, standing on the doorstep for 10 minutes before DWP staff finally decided to accept the unwelcome delivery.

The Work and Pensions Secretary is currently on holiday and has previously dismissed the petition as a "stunt", saying he already knows what it's like to "live on the breadline."

He said on Monday it was "ridiculous" that under the old disability living allowance (DLA) more than two thirds of recipients were guaranteed payments for life, regardless of whether their condition improved and the surge in applications proved the reform was needed.

He told the Daily Mail: "70% of people on it have lifetime awards which means no one sees you ever again. It doesn't matter if you get better or your condition worsens - it's quite ridiculous.

"We've seen a rise in the run-up to PIP. And you know why? They know PIP has a health check. They want to get in early, get ahead of it. It's a case of 'get your claim in early'."

He added that rigorous new health checks for claimants were "common sense".

It is the latest in a series of controversial welfare changes, including real-terms cuts in working-age benefits and tax credits and curbs for recipients with spare rooms.

Trials will also begin this month in four London boroughs of a £500-a-week cap on any household's benefits and of the new Universal Credit system.

Disabled People Minister Esther McVey insisted this morning that the move to PIP was about stopping the bill rising further, rather than cutting existing provision.

Government spending on boosting the income of disabled people would be broadly the same at around £13 billion at the end of this Parliament, she said.

"There are no targets... (the changes) were really to reflect today's understanding of disability, to take into account cognitive, learning, sensory, fluctuating, conditions that had not really happened in 1992 which was very much about physical conditions," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It was about ensuring it did not continue at the growth it was going... it was about the fact that by 2018 we couldn't have one in 17 people in the public on the benefit. It was about stopping this growth that had gone up.

"But it was about spending the £13 billion every year on those people who need it most."