A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) civil servant has told a disability charity that the government plans to merge personal independence payment (PIP) with universal credit, although not for at least six years.
The admission from a DWP civil servant – albeit not a senior executive – is the first time that anyone from the department has explicitly stated that it has plans to scrap PIP and combine it with universal credit.
The comments were made during a presentation about universal credit given to the disability organisation DASH in Hillingdon, north-west London, earlier this month.
In advance of the meeting, the DWP partnership adviser had been shown the link to a Disability News Service (DNS) article which reported suggestions that ministers were considering creating a new single benefit through merging PIP and universal credit.
He appeared to confirm that when he told the meeting that the department’s vision was for all benefits to be included in the universal credit system, including PIP, which is intended to contribute to the impairment-related costs faced by working-age disabled people.
He said DWP was looking at rolling PIP into universal credit from 2028 at the earliest, and that the ultimate plan was for there to be just one benefit, universal credit.
DWP has confirmed that the comments were made but it insisted this week that they came from a junior member of staff during a private training session and were not representative of the department’s views.
It also said that it had no plans to merge PIP and universal credit from 2028.
But the concerns were heightened last month when work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey conceded that “everything is on the table” when asked by DNS at her party conference whether a merger was being considered.
Ideas for targeting PIP or disability living allowance (DLA) – which PIP has replaced for working-age claimants – as a way to cut social security spending have been floating around DWP since before the 2015 general election.
In March 2015, the BBC reported that it had seen leaked documents that suggested the Conservatives were considering taxing disability benefits as one way to cut the social security bill by £12 billion a year by 2017-18.
Among the options, drawn up by DWP civil servants, were an introduction of means-testing for the contributory form of employment and support allowance, taxing DLA, PIP and attendance allowance (possibly saving £1.5 billion a year), and restricting eligibility to carer’s allowance (saving £1 billion a year).
A DWP spokesperson said yesterday (Wednesday): “Our green paper explores how the welfare system can better meet the needs of those who need it the most.
“Details of the proposed changes will be brought forward in a white paper next year.”
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