Disability benefit: Government finally succumbs to judges’ decision

A government benefits agency, faced with a legal defeat seven months ago, has at last backtracked. It has finally decided to abide by the judges’ ruling. It is now to change how it makes decisions about a key disability benefit.

disability benefitThe UK`s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)has backed down over the way it looks at claimants of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). These include people with MS and other diseases, as well as those with other disabilities.

Even last week, the DWP was refusing to bow to the inevitable. It was sticking to its argument that PIP disability benefit claimants could only score points for being unsafe if harm was likely to occur on more than 50% of the occasions on which they attempted an activity.

That was despite the fact that, back in March, a panel of upper tribunal judges made a ruling. They said that DWP decision makers should look at whether there is a real possibility that harm might occur and also at how great the harm might be. The greater the potential harm, the less likely it needs to be that it would happen on any specific occasion, the judges said.

So, why has the DWP taken seven months to follow the legal decision and update its guidance? It’s ridiculous.

Rule change could affect 10,000 disability benefit claimants

The DWP says that an extra 10,000 claimants will benefit by £70 – £90 a month because of the change.

Penny Mordaunt, then minister for disabled people spoke in the House Commons earlier this month. She said: “In the case of existing claimants the Department for Work and Pensions will undertake an exercise to go through all existing cases and identify anyone who may be entitled to more. We will then write to those people affected and all payments will be backdated to the date of the change in case law.”

The DWP claims it is searching for thousands of claimants who have lost out because of the delay.

However, can you believe that the DWP will identify everyone who should receive a higher award, or any award at all if they so far get nothing. I certainly don’t believe it. Furthermore, I don’t trust the DWP to so what it says.

Therefore, if you think you were affected, I recommend that you get advice, You need to see if your disability benefit case can be looked at again. This is particularly important because the DWP may be focusing on claimants with epilepsy.

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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.

Disabilities: Government loses tribunals, then changes rules

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Unhappy about two decisions made against it in legal tribunals, in relation to assessments for a disability benefit, the government now plans to change the regulations to get its own way. Is that a cynical response? Yes. It’s like changing the rules of a sport halfway through a game because you don’t like the referee’s decisions.

It all stems from decisions made last rear by the Upper Tribunal that had the effect of widening the criteria for qualifying for different elements of the UK government’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The benefit is claimed by people with MS and many other disabilities.

There is no doubt that the tribunal was entitled to make its judgments in the way the law was written but they did not fit in with the government’s view. So the regulations are to be changed to put things back the way they were.

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Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt MP.

Interestingly, and this is puzzling, in a statement made to the House of Commons on Thursday, minister of state for disabled people Penny Mordaunt said: “This (the changes) will not result in any claimants seeing a reduction in the amount of PIP previously awarded by DWP.”

Does that mean that anyone who has benefited from the tribunal decisions will keep their payments but that new applicants will have to abide by the changed regulations, once they come into effect? Don’t hold your breath!

The MS Society says: “The planned changes will affect the way that someone’s level of PIP award is calculated. They affect one of the 10 ‘daily living activities’ (which determine eligibility for the daily living component), and one of the two ‘mobility activities’ (which determine eligibility for the mobility component).

“The affected activities are Daily Living Activity 3 – Managing therapy or monitoring a health condition, and Mobility Activity 1- Planning and following a journey. The changes make these descriptors slightly more restrictive. They could impact the awards some people get.”

What that the extent of the impact for people with MS or other disabilities is not yet known but various disability groups will be working to establish how they will affect their communities. 

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.