Disabled Pensioners To Be Spared 'Unnecessary' Repeat PIP Assessments, Amber Rudd To Announce

The decision comes after years of complaints about the system.
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Hundreds of thousands of disabled pensioners will be spared “unnecessary” repeat assessments to prove they still need disability benefits, Amber Rudd is to announce on Tuesday.

Around 270,000 disabled pensioners will not have their personal independence payment (PIP) awards regularly reviewed from spring this year, the work and pensions secretary will say in a speech. The decision comes after years of complaints and campaigns about the system.

Charity leaders welcomed the news, but said a much more “radical overhaul” of the system was needed and the government must first “fix the flaws so inherent” in its assessments.

In the speech to the disability charity Scope, Rudd will share her own family experience of disability to stress her determination to ensure that those who have paid into the system all their lives receive support when they need it most.

“My father became blind in 1981. For thirty-six years his blindness was a normal part of my family’s life. Of my life,” she is expected to say.

“I reflected on my father’s lack of sight and how it affected his life and the lives of those who loved him, as I considered my role in supporting disabled people in Britain.

“Disabled pensioners have paid into our system for their whole lives and deserve the full support of the state when they need it most.

“This Government, therefore, intends to change the landscape for disabled people in Britain: to level the terrain and smooth their path.”

The commitment forms part of a wider package of measures intended to “level the terrain” for disabled people including potential plans to merge the work capability assessment and the PIP assessment services into one to bring a more “joined-up” approach to claimants.

Rudd will also say that she intends to review the Government’s goal to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027.

“People with disabilities and health conditions have enough challenges in life; so my ambition is to significantly improve how DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) supports disabled people and those with health conditions,” she is expected to say.

“Progress has been made, but we need to do more to close the gap between our intentions and disabled people’s experiences.

“The benefits system should be the ally of disabled people. It should protect them and ensure that the assistance the Government provides arrives in the right place to those who need it most.”

Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said: “While it’s good news that older disabled people will no longer have to go through unnecessary and stressful reassessments, millions of others will still be stuck in a failing system.

“The fact 83% of people with MS who appeal their PIP cases win shows how bad the current assessment process is.”

Merging Work Capability Assessments and PIP assessments was “like harnessing two donkeys to a farm cart and expecting it to transform into a race chariot” said Edwards. “If it wants to improve support for disabled people, the Government must first fix the flaws so inherent to its assessments.”

Mark Hodgkinson, chief executive at disability equality charity Scope, said: “We welcome today’s announcements on PIP but a more radical overhaul of the PIP and ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) tests is needed and we would urge the Secretary of State to commit to this further reform.

“Disabled people also want to see action taken to scrap counterproductive benefit sanctions. They make it harder for disabled people to get into work.”

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity of Mind says it was right that Rudd had acknowledged that in their current form, benefits assessments do not work for disabled people, including those of us with mental health problems.

He said: “Too often we hear from people about devastating experiences of assessments, where they are forced to recount some of the most difficult experiences of their life to assessors who lack knowledge in mental health.

“Invasive questions about self-harm and suicidal thoughts, demeaning comments about someone’s appearance, and a complete disregard for people’s mental health, are all too common.”

Farmer said anything which reduced the number of times people “have to endure” the assessments are welcome.

He asaid “change can’t come soon enough” for the thousands of people with mental health problems put through a “confusing and often humiliating” process.

He added the changes could bring new risks and the DWP must ensure everyone who needs support is given full control over how this information is shared and used, and that the assessments themselves needed “fundamental reform”.

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