A government U-turn, in the face of court judgment, means almost 165,000 people will benefit from higher disability benefits. Conservative politicians had tried to prevent people with psychological distress from receiving higher rates of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). But the judges said ‘no’.
The UK government had been thought likely to challenge the court ruling, and had said it would cost an extra £3.7bn to reverse the changes it had made.
Now though, like a coward in the face of enemy fire, it has deserted its position and run for cover. Figuratively raising the white flag of surrender, new work and pensions secretary Esther McVey has ruled out fresh legal action. She did so in a written statement to parliament.
U-turn on PIP welcomed
Disability campaigners have welcomed the U-turn. Just as I do.
It all started early last year, when new regulations said that people who could not travel independently on the grounds of psychological distress, as opposed to other conditions, were not entitled to the enhanced mobility rate of Personal Independence Payment.
Ministers dismissed criticism from an independent tribunal before the High Court ruled that they were “blatantly discriminatory”.
In her statement to the House of Commons, Ms McVey said that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “will now take all steps necessary to implement the judgment in the best interests of our claimants, working closely with disabled people and key stakeholders over the coming months.” She added that all payments would be backdated to the date in each individual claim.
“Although I and my department accept the High Court’s judgement, we do not agree with some of the detail contained therein.
Identify claimants entitled to more
“Our intention has always been to deliver the policy intent of the original regulations, as approved by parliament, and to provide the best support to claimants with mental health conditions,” she said.
The DWP must now identify people who may be entitled to more as a result of the court judgement.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said ministers had been wrong to “ignore” the view of an independent tribunal and to try and “defend the indefensible”.
Disability charity Scope chief executive Mark Atkinson described the original proposals as discriminatory.
He said: “This announcement is a victory for the many disabled people who have been unable to access support they are entitled to. The regulations introduced last March made crude and unfair distinctions between those with physical impairments and mental health conditions.”
Fine, now let’s see how quickly the DWP translates its defeat into action that helps people. I suspect higher payments may be a long time coming.
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.
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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.