By John Pring Disability News Service 9th March 2017
A disabled peer has accused the minister for disabled people of “spinning like crazy” in an attempt to defend the government’s latest cuts to benefits for people with mental health conditions.
Baroness [Jane] Campbell says she and five other peers met with Penny Mordaunt last week about the government’s amendments to personal independence payment (PIP) regulations.
The government’s own figures show the measures to tighten eligibility will see an estimated 164,000 claimants either lose all of their eligibility for the mobility component of the benefit or see it reduced.
The amendment means PIP claimants who need support on journeys because of the risk of experiencing overwhelming mental distress will not be able to be scored in their assessment in the same way as those who cannot navigate a journey because of a visual or cognitive impairment.
Baroness Campbell, a crossbench peer, had already asked the government in the House of Lords on 28 February if it had carried out an impact assessment of the social isolation caused by the measure.
The work and pensions minister Lord Henley failed to answer her question.
But she told Disability News Service this week that the government’s move, which it insists is intended to “clarify the criteria” and “restore the original aim of the policy”, meant that its previous pledge to ensure “parity of esteem” between PIP claimants with physical and mental health impairments “seems to have been flushed down the toilet”.
She said that disabled people and their organisations had “worked hard [when the government was designing PIP] to explain and give evidence on why the PIP mobility component needed to be based on a more modern understanding of disability, which would give parity of esteem between people with mental health/psychological disabilities and people with physical impairments when assessing an individual’s ability to get around”.
But she said the new regulations would now mean “clear discrimination between the two types of impairment”.
She said: “When I asked Penny Mordaunt directly about this, she swore the new regulations changed nothing, as the support for people with mental health barriers would come from elsewhere.”
But she said the six peers realised that Mordaunt was “spinning like crazy” after they had questioned her for more than an hour.
She said: “To be honest, it felt like we were both talking in different languages, about different subjects.”