Plans to slash spending on disabled people’s social security are in disarray, after government figures appeared to show that its new personal independence payment (PIP) is easier to claim than disability living allowance (DLA), the benefit it is replacing.
Chancellor George Osborne first announced cuts of 20 per cent to spending on DLA for working-age disabled people in his emergency budget in June 2010.
Since then, Conservative work and pensions ministers have repeatedly claimed that DLA is “outdated” and too easy to claim.
But the new PIP figures suggest that disabled people are finding it easier to prove their eligibility than they did with DLA.
Government documents have previously estimated that the number of working-age claimants would be cut by as much as 28 per cent by 2018, with 900,000 fewer people receiving PIP than if DLA had not been replaced.
But the new figures – released quietly, without any accompanying press release – cast doubt on whether these huge reductions will be achieved. They show that half of new claimants have been found eligible for PIP in its first year, once those who are terminally-ill are excluded.
This compares with about 43 per cent of new DLA claimants in 2008-09 and 42 per cent in 2009-10, although those figures include under-16s. Both sets of figures exclude the impact of any appeals.
If PIP is easier to claim than DLA, embattled work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith is likely to find it impossible to make his planned cuts to spending on disability benefits, and will face further political embarrassment.
The new figures also provide further evidence of huge backlogs in the claim process, showing that – of 349,000 new PIP claims made since its introduction in April 2013 – only 84,000 decisions were made by the end of its first year.
Labour’s shadow disabled people’s minister, Kate Green, estimated today that it would take 43 years – at current rates of progress – to assess the 3.6 million people the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) expects by 2018.
Green said the figures were further evidence of the “shambolic” introduction of PIP, and proof that it was behind schedule.
She said: “Thanks to delays and incompetence under David Cameron, millions of disabled people are experiencing anxiety and hardship, while taxpayers are forced to foot the ever-rising bill.”
Disability Rights UK said the implementation of PIP was causing “financial hardship, despair and frustration to nearly 300,000 disabled people”, and called for an end to the further roll-out of PIP and “urgent action” to “reduce the scandalous backlog of PIP claims”.
Of those found eligible for PIP so far, 22 per cent received the daily living award only, 10 per cent received the mobility award only, and 68 per cent received both.
A DWP spokesman said it was “way too early to read too much into the success rate. This is the first set of stats so [it is]difficult to say if this is a trend or not.”
And he said it was “simply wrong and misleading to simply subtract the number of decisions made from the total number of applications and pass it off as the number of people in a backlog or suggest it shows something about delays”.
Mike Penning, the Conservative minister for disabled people, said in a statement: “Disability living allowance is an outdated benefit introduced over 20 years ago.
“It was very much a product of its time, with the majority of claimants getting indefinite awards without systematic checks to see if their situations have changed – whether improved or deteriorated.
“That is why we have introduced PIP with a face-to-face assessment and regular checks – to make sure support is better targeted at those who need it most.
“Today’s figures show just that, with nearly 22 per cent of people getting the highest level of support compared to 15 per cent under DLA.”
5 June 2014