Personal Independence Payments (PIP) April 2016

Thank you for your recent email regarding the welfare benefits. .

I believe we must have a social security system which is efficient, fair and compassionate and I appreciate how concerned many people with disabilities and their families have been about the possibility of changes to the eligibility criteria for PIP. I also recognise how vital and valued this support is in helping meet the additional costs that having a disability can bring, such as purchasing equipment, services and support, and in enabling disabled people to live independently.

As I am sure you are aware, just two years after PIP was introduced, in December 2015 the Government launched a consultation regarding aids and appliances and the daily living component of PIP, which closed on the 29 January. On 11 March the Government announced it would be changing the PIP assessment criteria, reducing the number of points for the use of an aid or appliance against two out of the ten Daily Living activities assessed - dressing and managing toilet needs. This was confirmed at the Budget where it was set out that the Government would be cutting £1.2 billion in support, meaning that 370,000 disabled people would lose £3,500 a year. I was very concerned about a measure contained in the Budget which would further cut support for those most in need when the Budget also contained tax breaks for those who least need them.

It was therefore welcome that in the week following the Budget the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced a vital U-turn, confirming that the Government would not be going ahead with the changes to PIP.

However, analysis from the House of Commons Library shows the Government is still cutting support for disabled people by £1.2bn in real-terms over the course of this parliament, including cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). I'm disappointed the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions did not also use this opportunity to also reverse cuts to ESA, contained in the Welfare Reform and Work Act, which will see the level of support for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) cut by around £30 a week from April 2017. I voted against this Bill in its entirety and I believe that this is an unfair and unjust measure, which will hurt vulnerable people who through no fault of their own are suffering from serious illnesses and are in and out of work intermittently.

The Government's welfare reforms must help not hinder disabled people and I believe that the Government is reneging on its own manifesto commitment to protect social security for disabled people through its cuts to ESA.

The Government are leaving disabled people in my patch to fend for themselves.  It is instead falling on the community to pull together and work towards combatting the unfair struggles that people with disabilities face.  It is evident that people in my patch are doing just that.  In March, my charity Rebalancing the Outer Estates along with the City Council teamed up to hold the first ever Disability Jobs Fair in Nottingham North.  The jobs fair worked to dispel the unfair and untrue myths and stereotypes that employers have about disabled employees, and provided the chance for disabled people to meet potential employers and find jobs.  Since the Government is failing to provide sufficient financial support for those with disabilities, it is more important than ever to make sure that they have the chance to find gainful employment. 

Thank you again for writing me about this important issue.