October 21st 2016 By John Pring Disability News Service
Two ministers have refused to apologise after they both misled MPs about the impact of the government’s new disability benefit on disabled people.
In the space of just 20 minutes, work and pensions secretary Damian Green and minister for disabled people Penny Mordaunt both misled the House of Commons about how personal independence payment (PIP) was affecting disabled people.
The first House of Commons work and pensions questions after the break for party conferences saw about 20 questions from MPs across the main parties with concerns about the way PIP was operating, far more than for any other issue.
In one answer, Mordaunt told MPs that under PIP – compared with disability living allowance (DLA), which it is replacing for working-age claimants – “more people are entitled to use the Motability scheme”.
But Motability’s own figures show that of their customers who have been reassessed for PIP so far, 44 per cent have lost their entitlement to the scheme and have had to hand their vehicles back.
Responding to another question on PIP, Green told MPs on Monday that “many more people are eligible to receive PIP than were eligible to receive disability living allowance”.
But the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) own figures from June showed that only about seven in 10 disabled people who were previously claiming DLA were being found eligible for PIP.
The DWP figures showed just 71 per cent of DLA recipients who applied for PIP were successful with their claim in April 2016, once withdrawn claims were excluded.
PIP was introduced with the intention – announced by chancellor George Osborne in his 2010 emergency budget – of cutting the number of working-age claimants by 20 per cent.
A DWP spokesman appeared to accept that the two statements were not true*, arguing in a statement that the ministers were trying to make completely different points about PIP.
He has so far refused to say whether the ministers stand by their statements or whether they will be apologising to MPs, but insisted that “the comments should be considered in the context of the exchanges made during DWP Oral Questions and the wider discussion of which they formed a part”.
Among MPs who raised concerns about PIP, the SNP’s Martyn Day told Mordaunt that for the fourth year in a row “the Infrastructure and Projects Authority has said that the roll-out of the personal independence payment project is ‘in doubt with major risks… apparent in a number of key areas’”.
Mordaunt claimed that PIP was “a vast improvement on what went before” and was “a more targeted benefit”.
Another SNP MP, John Nicolson, then told her of a disabled constituent who had had her Motability car removed after a PIP assessment.
He said: “She had to use public transport, which she was unable to do, and she lost her job as a result.
“Does the minister really think that government policy is delivering compassionate outcomes in such cases?”
After asking for Nicolson to write to her with details of the case, Mordaunt claimed that more people were entitled to use the Motability scheme under PIP, although “clearly we want to make sure that any decision taken on a PIP assessment is the right one”.
Tory MP Peter Bone told Mordaunt: “I do not know whether it is just in my area, but at every weekly surgery I will have one person who has been refused PIP who is clearly entitled to it.
“I had a lady this week with multiple sclerosis; she is clearly entitled to it and will get it when she goes to the independent tribunal, but why do such people have to wait until then?
“Surely this can be corrected at an earlier stage.”
Mordaunt said she understood Bone’s frustration, and told him that DWP was “looking very closely at those cases that have gone to appeal and been overturned to see why the right decision was not taken earlier in the process”.
She pointed to an earlier answer in which she had said that DWP was working to address such problems, “including giving a bit more flexibility for certain cases at that early stage, with the hope that the evidence we need will then be submitted at that stage”, work that she said was currently being rolled out.
She told Bone that there would be more announcements on PIP in the department’s forthcoming green paper on employment support for disabled people, which is due to be published before the end of the year.
*In full, the DWP spokesman said: “There are more people using Motability now than when PIP was first introduced, including a number who are newly entitled to Motability under PIP, which is the point the minister was making.
“PIP recognises both physical and non-physical conditions, such as mental health problems, much more effectively than DLA did.
“For example, under DLA some people with mental health conditions were not eligible for support or were on much lower rates than they are under PIP, which is what the secretary of state was referring to in his remarks.
“Overall, 66 per cent of PIP recipients, whose main disabling condition is a mental health condition, are getting the enhanced rate of the daily living component, compared to only 22 per cent of working age mental health recipients receiving the highest rate of the DLA care component.
“24 per cent of PIP recipients, whose main disabling condition is a mental health condition, are getting the enhanced rate of the mobility component, compared to only nine per cent of working age mental health recipients receiving the higher rate of the DLA mobility component.”