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Changes to the Personal Independence Payment eligibility criteria

Published Friday, February 9, 2018

On 19 January 2018 the Government announced that it accepted a High Court ruling that controversial changes made in March 2017 to the criteria for the PIP mobility component for people experiencing psychological distress were unlawful. This briefing gives background information to the changes that have now been overturned. It will be updated in due course to take account of subsequent developments. In the meantime, this page gives information on what the latest announcement means for PIP claimants.

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What were the changes in March 2017?

In March last year DWP introduced regulations to reverse the effect of two Upper Tribunal judgments relating to the PIP eligibility criteria – for background to these changes see our Commons Library briefing CBP-7911,  Changes to the Personal Independence Payment eligibility criteria.  The most significant change made by the regulations was to tighten the rules on access to the mobility component for people unable to undertake journeys due to “overwhelming psychological distress.”  This would potentially affect people with a wide range of conditions including learning disability, autism, schizophrenia, anxiety conditions, social phobias and early dementia.

How did disability organisations respond?

Disability organisations called on the Government not to proceed with the changes. Some questioned how the changes fit with the Government’s stated commitment to “parity of esteem” between physical and mental health issues.

What did the High Court say?

In its judgment on 21 December 2017 in RF v the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions & Others [2017] EWHC 3375 (Admin), the High Court ruled that the regulations introducing the March 2017 changes were unlawful because they discriminate against people with disabilities in breach of Human Rights Act 1998 obligations, and declared that the Secretary of State did not have lawful power to make the regulations (i.e. they were “ultra vires’”) and should have consulted before making them.

RF’s claim was supported by The National Autistic Society, Inclusion London, Revolving Doors and Disability Rights UK, Mind and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).


How did the Government respond?

On Friday 19 January the Government announced that it wouldn’t be contesting the High Court’s decision, and that it would also drop its appeal against the original Upper Tribunal decision (MH v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2016] UKUT 0531 (AAC)) that had prompted the change to the regulations.

In a Written Statement, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said that her Department would now “take all steps necessary to implement the judgment in MH in the best interests of our claimants, working closely with disabled people and key stakeholders over the coming months.”

DWP is to undertake an exercise to go through all affected cases to identify anyone who may be entitled to more as a result of the judgment, and to make backdated payments.

The Department for Communities is also reviewing claims in Northern Ireland.

How many people may be affected?

The Government estimates that up to 220,000 people could benefit from the judgment, as a total cost of around £3.7 billion.

What does this mean for claimants?

The Department is drawing up detailed plans for reviewing cases, and it may be some time before we know what is happening and when.  In the meantime, based on statements made including the response from the Minister for Disabled People to an Urgent Question on 30 January, it appears that:

  • The DWP plans to review all 1.6 million existing PIP awards, and PIP claims submitted since the original Upper Tribunal judgment in November 2016, to see who could be affected.
  • DWP will be writing to the individuals affected – claimants should not have to contact DWP to receive the correct award.
  • The review will be an “administrative exercise” involving DWP Case Managers looking at existing information the Department holds. It will not involve face-to-face reassessments of awards.  If Case Managers need more information to make a decision, they will contact the claimant and/or their doctor.
  • DWP is consulting stakeholders – including the mental health charity Mind – on how the review should be conducted and how cases should be prioritised.
  • Additional payments will be backdated to the “effective date” in each case – either the date of the claim or the date of the original Upper Tribunal judgment (November 2016), whichever is the later date.
  • The review should not lead to delays processing new claims for PIP.
  • DWP will not make savings from elsewhere in order to fund the additional payments.

Replying to the Urgent Question on 30 January, the Minister for Disabled People said:

…it is incredibly important to me that we get this right. The exercise will be complex and, to carry it out accurately and safely, we want to ensure that stakeholders and experts are involved. As a result, I cannot set out a timetable at this stage, but I can reassure all hon. Members that we are approaching this with a great deal of vigour and will ensure we do it as soon as possible. We have already started to recruit more people at DWP to help with the PIP review.

The Minister also gave an undertaking to update the House regularly on the Government’s plans.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7911

Author: Steven Kennedy

Topics: Benefits administration, Benefits policy, Sickness, disability and carers' benefits

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