Thousands of disabled people will receive hundreds of pounds more in benefits each month after the Government was forced to backtrack on controversial reforms.
Following a high-level legal ruling in March, ministers have rewritten rules judging Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claimants’ ability to carry out unsupervised daily tasks safely.
The Department for Work and Pensions will be going through all existing cases to identify anyone entitled to a higher rate of PIP as a result of the decision, with payments set to be backdated to March.
The changes mean around 10,000 people will see their benefits boosted by between £70 and £90 each week by 2023.
In particular, people with conditions which affect consciousness - such as epilepsy - are expected to benefit from the move.
Activists and charities had previously argued that PIP assessments were unfairly biased against epilepsy sufferers, as while for many attacks are generally “unlikely” - meaning they are able to carry out day-to-day tasks alone - when they do occur, they are often very serious.
Louise Bolotin, from Manchester, told HuffPost UK last month how she lost £307 a month overnight under the previous rules when she was reassessed as part of a transfer from the old Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to PIP.
Bolotin, 55, has tonic-clonic and focal seizures which can affect her up to three times a week, leaving her dizzy and exhausted.
“The seizures can happen at any time. I never know when I’m not going to be able to do stuff, I have no control,” she said.
“When a tonic-clonic seizure happens, I can’t walk or even get out of bed for 24 hours. Even getting from the bed to the bathroom is hard.”
Philip Lee, chief executive of charity Epilepsy Action, said his organisation is “delighted” by the news, saying the government is finally “starting to recognise the complex needs of people with epilepsy”.
“Many people with the condition could have a seizure at any time, often without warning. The daily risk to people’s safety needs to be taken into account,” Lee said.
“We know the current system is not working and is failing people with epilepsy. They are more likely to be refused PIP than those with any other health condition.”
The MS Society has also welcomed the move after revealing earlier in the year that at least £6 million was taken from people living with the condition between 2013 and 2016 after PIP was introduced.
“We know many people with MS aren’t given the opportunity in their PIP assessments to properly explain what it’s like to live with the condition,” said policy manager Laura Wetherly.
“We hope this change means the unpredictable nature of MS will be better captured by assessors, so people can get the right outcome the first time.”
However, the organisation said current PIP rules are still “riddled with problems”.
“Realistically, the whole system needs to be reviewed,” Wetherly added. “Living with MS is hard enough; it shouldn’t be made harder by a welfare system that doesn’t make sense.”
But announcing the change today, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Penny Mourdaunt called PIP a “modern, dynamic benefit” compared to the “outdated” DLA system.
“PIP is a fairer benefit, which takes a much wider look at the way an individual’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis,” she said.
“Under PIP, 29% of claimants are receiving the highest possible support, compared with just 15% under DLA.”
According to the government, the updated rules will also benefit people who face challenges communicating or experience sensory difficulties.