Hundreds of thousands of disabled pensioners will no longer have to undergo “unnecessary” repeat assessments for disability benefits, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd is to announce.
From the spring of this year, around 270,000 disabled pensioners will not have their personal independence payment (PIP) awards regularly reviewed, Ms Rudd will say.
The commitment forms part of a wider package of measures, to be set out in a speech on Tuesday to the disability charity Scope, intended to “level the terrain” for disabled people.
Ms Rudd will draw on her own family experience of disability to stress her determination to ensure that those who have paid into the system all their lives receive support when they need it most.
“My father became blind in 1981. For thirty-six years his blindness was a normal part of my family’s life. Of my life,” she is expected to say.
“I reflected on my father’s lack of sight and how it affected his life and the lives of those who loved him, as I considered my role in supporting disabled people in Britain.
“Disabled pensioners have paid into our system for their whole lives and deserve the full support of the state when they need it most.
“This Government, therefore, intends to change the landscape for disabled people in Britain: to level the terrain and smooth their path.”
In other measures, Ms Rudd will say the Government is looking to merge the work capability assessment and the PIP assessment services into one to bring a more “joined-up” approach to claimants.
She will also say that she intends to review the Government’s goal to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027.
“People with disabilities and health conditions have enough challenges in life; so my ambition is to significantly improve how DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) supports disabled people and those with health conditions,” she is expected to say.
“Progress has been made, but we need to do more to close the gap between our intentions and disabled people’s experiences.
“The benefits system should be the ally of disabled people. It should protect them and ensure that the assistance the Government provides arrives in the right place to those who need it most.”
Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said: “While it’s good news that older disabled people will no longer have to go through unnecessary and stressful reassessments, millions of others will still be stuck in a failing system.
“The fact 83% of people with MS who appeal their PIP cases win shows how bad the current assessment process is.”
Merging Work Capability Assessments and PIP assessments was “like harnessing two donkeys to a farm cart and expecting it to transform into a race chariot” said Mr Edwards. “If it wants to improve support for disabled people, the Government must first fix the flaws so inherent to its assessments.”
Mark Hodgkinson, chief executive at disability equality charity Scope, said: “We welcome today’s announcements on PIP but a more radical overhaul of the PIP and ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) tests is needed and we would urge the Secretary of State to commit to this further reform.
“Disabled people also want to see action taken to scrap counterproductive benefit sanctions. They make it harder for disabled people to get into work.”