McVey bows to ‘safely, reliably’ pressure on PIP regulations


theweek120by150The government has bowed to intense campaigning pressure and agreed to add vital wording to its new personal independence payment (PIP) assessment, and to give the amendment legal force.

Today’s change to the PIP regulations, which will be debated next month (February) in parliament and will come into force in April as the government begins to roll out its reforms, should provide some clarity to disabled people with fluctuating conditions.

The addition to the regulations now means that claimants of PIP – which will gradually replace working-age disability living allowance – will be assessed on what they can do “safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a reasonable time period”.

The change is likely to be particularly welcomed by those claiming the mobility part of the new benefit, as they will now not be assessed on what distance they can walk occasionally, or only walk once before needing a long rest, or only while in severe pain.

Liberal Democrat peers and MPs were today claiming credit for persuading their coalition partners to add the words to the regulations.

The disabled Liberal Democrat peer Baroness [Celia] Thomas wrote on a Liberal Democrat website that the government had intended to “hide away this test” in the guidance given to PIP assessors, and instead of using “repeatedly, reliably, safely and in a timely manner”, just use the word “reliably”.

She told fellow peers last week that the number of PIP appeals would “rocket” if the words were not included in regulations.

Baroness Thomas said she had tabled motions to amend the regulations, and she and fellow Liberal Democrat peers and MPs – including the disabled MP Stephen Lloyd – lobbied their party’s pensions minister, Steve Webb, who she said had “managed to persuade his colleagues” in the Department for Work and Pensions.

Despite the government move, there are still deep concerns among many disabled activists and other campaigners, who had lobbied strongly for the change, but who are also angry at the decision to alter a key mobility criteria in the assessment from 50 metres to 20 metres.

But Baroness Thomas said: “This is a tremendous victory, which will mean that disabled people need not fear that the bar to receiving the enhanced mobility rate is too high.”

The disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, who last week warned the government that the move from 50 to 20 metres could be open to judicial review, tweeted that the amendment to the regulations was “good news”.

Esther McVey, the Conservative minister for disabled people, said in a statement: “Our intention has always been the same – we want to target support at those who need it most.

“We have always said that we will not just look at whether individuals can carry out activities but also the manner in which they do so.

“I know that disabled people and their representatives feel strongly that this important concept is set out in law and I am happy to do this.”

31 January 2013