Good news for disabled people as Government gives up fighting PIP decision – maybe

Good news slipped out in a written ministerial statement on a Friday afternoon. New Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey announced that the Government would not continue its appeal of a High Court judgement that its changes to entitlements to Personal Independence Payments for those whose mental ill health affected their ability to get around were unlawful. Ms McVey said:

On 21st December 2017 the High Court published its judgment in the judicial review challenge against regulation 2(4) of the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 S.I. 2017/194. The Regulations reversed the effect of the Upper Tribunal judgment in MH.

I wish to inform the House that, after careful consideration, I have decided not to appeal the High Court judgment. My Department will now take all steps necessary to implement the judgment in MH in the best interests of our claimants, working closely with disabled people and key stakeholders over the coming months.

These regulations went through Parliament last March. Liberal Democrat peers did their best to stop them and would have succeeded if Labour had voted with them. As I wrote at the time:

Not for the first time, you have to wonder what the point of the Labour Party in Parliament is. Should they not just go and sit on the Government benches?

LDV reader Matt wrote last year about how he would lose his support for mobility when he moved from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments and the life-limiting impact that would have for him:

I hardly ever go outdoors, I tend to only go out when it is for a necessity like going to the doctor, psychologist or hospital and then I need my partner or family member to accompany me to keep me safe and to intervene in the event of me having a psychological episode. I can on very rare occasions manage a trip out to the countryside as long as it is a wide open space and there is nobody else about and I can see any perceived threats well in advance and I am able to escape and get back to the car or home quickly. I have become totally disengaged from society; I cut all ties with friends and former work colleagues many years ago. When I am outdoors, if I am confronted with a possible social interaction my brain starts racing at a million miles an hour. I convince myself they are going to ask me personal questions which will cause me distress. My brain starts running through conversations before they have taken place, it becomes sheer manic and panic, trust me when I say it is pure trauma. When I get home, the only way I can deal with this “psychological distress” is to start self harming and deflect my emotional trauma into a physical trauma as a distraction to escape my thoughts. It is hell.

I worry about these changes to disability benefits, not just for myself, but for people like me who suffer from debilitating mental health disorders who rely on the assistance of others and the welfare state in order to try and live an independent life.

So why do I say that this is good news….maybe. Simply because I don’t trust the Tories with any aspect of our social security system.  What will happen now is that all 164,000 claims affected by this ruling will be reviewed. By rights what should happen is that those affected will get their payments – and backdated, too. 

I say should because there’s a bit of a but in McVey’s ministerial statement – my emphasis:

Although I and my Department accept the High Court’s judgment, we do not agree with some of the detail contained therein. Our intention has always been to deliver the policy intent of the original regulations, as approved by Parliament, and to provide the best support to claimants with mental health conditions.

The Department for Work and Pensions will now undertake an exercise to go through all affected cases in receipt of PIP and all decisions made following the judgment in MH to identify anyone who may be entitled to more as a result of the judgment.

Those who support people through their PIP claims will now be looking very closely at what comes out of this review. We will need to be sure that the Government  doesn’t wriggle out of its obligations. I certainly won’t be happy until I see that those who were denied these payments have the money in their bank accounts.

Of course, as I’ve just been reminded in a conversation with Matt, none of this would be happening if it weren’t for the bravery of the person who took the Government to judicial review in the first place. There wouldn’t be a court judgement for the government to decide to accept if Billie (not her real name) hadn’t launched an action with the support of Wish, a women’s mental health charity. They ran a crowdfunder to raise the money to do it and many disabled people themselves contributed to make it happen.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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3 Comments

  • Thank you for this article Caron
    This is such a big win for disabled people and will come as such a relief to many.
    Like you I am cautious about the Tories not trying to find ways to wiggle out of this some way, Lets not forget it was the Tory MP George Freeman who was the chairman of the policy board at the time who said on BBC 5
    “These tweaks are actually about rolling back some bizarre decisions by tribunals that now mean benefits are being given to people who are taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety.
    “We want to make sure we get the money to the really disabled people who need it.”

    But today is a good day and I want to say thank you to a few people

    Clearly, I have not been a vocal champion of Tim Farron or Liberal Democrats at times, but credit where credit is due, because, It was Tim Farron and the Liberal Democrats who tabled the original prayer motion to try and annul these cruel legislative changes that discriminated against disabled people who suffer with mental health. And together, with the support of thousands of disabled men and women, friends and family, disability organisations and of course good old British Justice, the government has been forced into this U-Turn.
    So I would just like to say personally, Thank You to Tim and to the Party for standing beside us and helping us to find our voice and to be heard.

    I really hope it will be Vince Cable who holds the Government to account over this, to insure all those men, women and children receive the benefits they were entitled to, and that Theresa May needs to answer for her government, when she spoke of writing the wrongs of social injustices, why then did her government put disabled people and their families through this ordeal, that was blatantly discriminatory and a violation of their human rights?

  • Whilst we are on the topic of discriminating people with mental health, I would just like to take the opportunity to comment on an area that some of you may or may not have seen in the media over the last few days. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/19/people-with-mental-illnesses-refused-access-to-insurance-cover

    It has been reported that Insurance companies have been discriminating against people with rocketing premiums for those with mental health conditions for everything from Life Insurance to travel Insurance when there is no justification for the rise in premium. There are reports of people who say they were penalised after attending one or two grief counselling sessions following a family death, leading to rocketing insurance premiums.
    Premiums increased for people who have taken time off work for work related stress.
    People suffering from Bipolar being refused travel Insurance altogether .
    These injustices are still occurring today because businesses are allowed to continue to operate on outdated information and understandings of mental health conditions.

    Time to change

  • The Government is holding a public consultation on the blue badge scheme, you may have seen this talked about in the media over the last few days.
    You can read the proposals here https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/blue-badge-disabled-parking-scheme-eligibility-review
    And there is a public survey for your opinions here http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/R2OF6/

    I wonder if people reading this forum would be interested in contributing towards this debate.
    I worry, because there are a lot of prejudices about the Blue Badge Scheme, many people think this is all about disabled parking spots at supermarkets and it is about so much more than this. So many illnesses are invisible.
    Take for example someone suffering from a severe anxiety related disorder, they might love the opportunity to go for a walk along a secluded beach, however, the nearest parking to the beach is 100’s meters away if not further through a busy town centre, making the journey impossible, so they miss out on a fabulous opportunity. A blue bade would permit them to park on a yellow line, closer to the beach and avoid the anxiety of busy town centre.
    There are so many examples that I could give you, where people with mental health and anxiety related disorders who would benefit from being able to park closer to their destination, opening up a whole new world of opportunities where at present they are cut off.
    Like I say, this is not about a supermarket disabled bay, walking a couple of extra meters is of no consequence to a person with mental health disorders in a supermarket, this is about expanding the opportunity to lead a more inclusive and fuller life.
    Please support it

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