Lib Dem Lords aim to kill new Tory restrictions on disability benefits

The Liberal Democrats have tabled a motion to kill Government attempts to severely restrict disability benefits.

The move follows an announcement by the Government that they will be tightening the criteria for claimants of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which could see diabetics and those with mental illnesses stuck without support. The Government has introduced these restrictions after losing two cases at tribunals.  From the Minister’s statement:

The first judgement held that needing support to take medication and monitor a health condition should be scored in the same way as needing support to manage therapy, like dialysis, undertaken at home. Until this ruling, the assessment made a distinction between these two groups, on the basis that people who need support to manage therapy of this kind are likely to have a higher level of need, and therefore face higher costs.

The second held that someone who cannot make a journey without assistance due to psychological distress should be scored in the same way as a person who needs assistance because they have difficulties navigating. By way of example, the first group might include some people with isolated social phobia or anxiety, whereas the second group might include some people who are blind. Until this ruling, the assessment made a distinction between these two groups, on the basis that people who cannot navigate, due to a visual or cognitive impairment, are likely to have a higher level of need, and therefore face higher costs.

Responding to the announcement Baroness Cathy Bakewell, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

The Government is using its recent losses in court as an excuse to severely restrict disability benefits. Rather than listening to the ruling they are using it to make matters worse for disabled people – that is utterly outrageous.

What makes things even worse is that they have sneaked this announcement out under the cover of by-elections. These decisions impact the lives of vulnerable people, Liberal Democrats will not allow the Conservatives to get away with treating people with disabilities with such total contempt.

Liberal Democrats audaciously killed off the Government’s plans to restrict tax credits back in October 2015. Let’s hope that they can pull off this attempt to deny people the help and support that they need.

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  • I hope the Liberal Democrats are successful with this. It is disgusting what the government are doing / intending to do to sick and disabled people.
    Hopefully Labour will support the Liberal Democrats motion.

    Can someone link to the Governments announcements about them tightening the criteria for Pip as I have not seen this. I had seen about the tribunal case that the government lost, but not their response to this.

  • Ok I have just found it.

    This disgraceful, the government intends to change the descriptors by adding “For reasons other than psychological distress” to the descriptors.

    New descriptors
    The new descriptors will read

    a. Can plan and follow the route of a journey unaided. 0 points.

    b. Needs prompting to be able to undertake any journey to avoid overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant. 4 points.

    c. For reasons other than psychological distress, cannot plan the route of a journey. 8 points.

    d. For reasons other than psychological distress, cannot follow the route of an unfamiliar journey without another person, assistance dog or orientation aid. 10 points.

    e. Cannot undertake any journey because it would cause overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant. 10 points.

    f. For reasons other than psychological distress, cannot follow the route of a familiar journey without another person, an assistance dog or an orientation aid. 12 points.

    I hope that the Liberal Democrats manage to defeat this.
    How is this even legal? surely it is a clear case of discrimination against people with mental health and would be open to legal challenge. It is clearly intended to prevent people with mental health from being awarded the mobility component of PIP

    It makes a mockery of everything that the current government has said about addressing the issues of people with mental health, parity of esteem etc.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Feb '17 - 1:30pm

    The whole system is flawed and absurd. We should have simpler , kinder, sensible and practical systems .

    There is much too much of us and them, us the vulnerable, them , the powerful.

    And far too much red tape.It is a Liberal cause . The centre right have abandoned it . Digital and disability policies show them to be nanny state fuss pots at best, mean spirited at worst .

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 24th Feb '17 - 1:56pm

    Surely all that should be necessary should be a letter from the applicant’s own GP, confirming that the person has an illness or disability, giving a few details, and confirming that the GP considers that their patient meets the criteria for benefits.

  • I hope Cathy Bakewell succeeds in this.

    Sad to say, it would be better if we started with clean hands. The roots of all this started in the Coalition when there was a three line whip to support PIP and we were in government with Duncan-Smith. They’re just tightening the screw a bit more.

    I suggest all Lib Dems get to see Ken Loach’s film, “I, Daniel Blake” as a matter of priority.

  • This really infuriates me
    “people who cannot carry out a journey because of a visual or cognitive impairment are likely to need more support than someone who experiences psychological distress when they undertake a journey, for example as a result of social phobia or anxiety.”
    The Government are being really dismissive of the severity of “psychological distress” for people with social phobia and Anxiety and any other related disorders, PTSD for example. Not only are these conditions severely debilitating, they can be extremely dangerous to the person or for those around them, when people become disorientated, confused, terrified any number of things can happen, becoming unaware of dangers, hazards, aggressive etc. Then there are the after effects which can lead to worsening depression, suicidal thoughts, intrusive thoughts, self harming etc.

    The group of people that the Government is trying to exclude from PIP are in need of just as much support as anyone with a physical ailment. Some would be completely unable to undertake a journey without the support of another person and would become even more housebound than they already are. Some are completely unable to use Public transport and rely on their access to benefit to met the added costs of travel by use of either car or taxi’s.

    It is disgraceful how the government is treating this group of disabled people as being less deserving of support than those with physical disabilities.

    I really hope this party and other opposition parties get behind this to try and block it.

    Are these just proposals by the government and have to go before a vote in the house of commons and the lords? Because from the look of things the Government is bypassing the social security advisory committee and has changed the legislation to come into effect in just 3 weeks time

  • Please excuse my ignorance, because I’ve not read the details, but isn’t question e in the list Matt gives about being unable to make a journey exclusively due to psychological distress? I don’t wish to defend what is obviously a flawed system, but if there are separate questions relating to psychological distress, then it will be necessary to avoid double-counting.

    Whether or not it is necessary, or even helpful to separate out the reasons for being unable to plan or make a journey is another matter.

    IMO, it will be important to differentiate between what conditions may be temporary, and which are permanent and/or degenerative.

    There was a good tribute/debate in Parliament earlier this week about Gordon Aikman and MND, and one of the issues raised was the requirement for reassessment. It is both cruel, and a waste of resources, to insist that people with MND and equivalent conditions are recalled for a pointless reassessment. In addition, certain conditions which are known to be severely life limiting should be fast-tracked for support following diagnosis.

  • @Fiona

    The question on the PIP relating to this are

    13a) “Do you need help from another person to plan a route to somewhere you know
    well? Or do you need another person, guide dog or specialist aid to help you get
    Then there are tick box options for YES / No / Sometimes
    13b) ” Do you need help from another person, guide dog or specialist aid to get to a
    location that is unfamiliar to you? ” Yes / No / Sometimes

    Q13c) Are you unable to go out because of severe anxiety or distress? YES / NO / Sometimes

    If you have ticked yes to any box, you then have another box to write in your own words, the difficulties that you have

    The comment I posted yesterday at 11.15am are changes to the guidelines that are issued to decision makers when assessing claims.
    When a decision maker receives a form, they read how the activity affects someones ability to carry out that task, judging by what is said in the claim form and how the assessor has judged their ability and they score them accordingly see comment at 11.15
    Now these guidelines have changed, so the moment someone writes that they need guidance or supervision to carry out this task because of the Psychological distress it will cause, they will no longer be entitled to the benefit. This will effect people with Dementia, Autism as well as those suffering from severe anxiety and social phobia’s

    It is pretty disgusting what the Government is trying to slip out here

  • Sorry should have added

    “For reasons other than psychological distress” never used to be part of the Guidelines issued to assessors.
    This changes to the guide / legislation means that people who experience Psychological Distress and need guidance / supervision will no longer be able to score in C,D,F

    In order to be awarded PIP mobility to have to score a minimum of 8 points in this activity.

    So the only people who could still receive an award who experience Psychological Distress are: “e. Cannot undertake any journey because it would cause overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant. 10 points.” in other words, people who are entirely housebound and never go outdoors at all.

    If you can do it but only with support / guidance from another person, you are not entitled.

    Hope that makes sense

  • Dean Crofts 25th Feb '17 - 1:33pm

    I hope this is successful. As Liberal Democrats we must stand up for those that are disabled or suffer from mental health as these are the members of society who need support and find it 100% harder to enter the workplace.

    It is a shame that GPs will not currently entertain being part of the welfare system and allowing government to rely on their professional judgment on the ability of someone to work therefore enabling us to get rid os ESA assessments and make the PIP process easier.

    Hopefully we can change their opinion on this as a medical professionals judgment is just as good as the state having to duplicate – via contractors – what many already know within the health system.

    Its is a money saver in relation to administration.

    The regular reviews in the PIP system, which did not happen in the DLA system are welcome, for supporting the claimant and making sure that if conditions do change the claimant is given the correct amount of support, be it less support or more.

    This must be a vote winner for us as a party as this demographic are going to be affected by Universal Credit cuts – which we must also oppose – which have come through the back door when the government said they had conceded on tax credit cuts. They haven’t – all the cuts will be introduced with the roll out now of Universal Credit.

    There are a lot more ways of saving money than reducing support to people who are disadvantaged as a result of the type of society we currently live in!

  • @Dean Crofts

    Agree with pretty much every part of your post apart from

    “It is a shame that GPs will not currently entertain being part of the welfare system and allowing government to rely on their professional judgment”
    It is my understanding, and this is from conversations years ago with my own GP, that the reason GP’s stopped having anything to do with the DWP assessments was because they have signed a Hippocratic oath that promises to always put the needs and welfare of the patient above all else. This was not acceptable to the Government who wanted much harsher tests, thats why it was contracted out to private providers who employ people under the umbrella of “health care professional” and are not constrained by the same Hippocratic oath.

    I do think the Liberal Democrat party or any party for that matter could pick up a lot of supporters if they took up this cause, a lot of disabled people and their friends and family are affected and see the effects of what this does and will do to vulnerable people

  • There is an article on the BBC news website today about Labour opposition to these changes.

    It also states: “The Liberal Democrats were not available to comment.”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Feb '17 - 3:32pm


    You talk the common sense that makes you kin! I have long said, despite how she and her cohorts appeared at the time, Thatcher was moderate on these issues , compared to today. The advocacy you make for a simple way , is as it was for a generation or two! It is precisely how the system should be.

  • @Catherine Jane Crosland

    “Surely all that should be necessary should be a letter from the applicant’s own GP, confirming that the person has an illness or disability, giving a few details, and confirming that the GP considers that their patient meets the criteria for benefits.”

    That would be the most efficient and humane way of assessing the criteria, problem is sometimes our government is neither of those things.

    Some people are also shocked to learn, did you know that the DWP / Atos / Maximus are not even obliged to contact a claimants GP / specialists / Consultants for a report when assessing someones claim {this happens more often than you would think}, it can be done solely on the claim form and by the “health care professional” carrying out the assessment. It is actually up to the claimant to provide all supporting evidence / statements to support their claim, this can be a costly experience especially when Consultants / Specialists are involved and who want hundreds of pounds for their time, even a G.P statement can cost £40. These are expenses that disabled people already living on limited means should not have to find.
    If you end up going to appeal you defiantly would require these supporting statements, so sometimes it is better to just have them up front and have all the evidence at the start of the claim / reassessment in order to try and avoid the stressful situation of an appeal.
    it really is disgraceful the unfair disadvantage that sick, disabled and vulnerable people are put in by the DWP / Government

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 26th Feb '17 - 9:19am

    Matt, You are right. We should all be deeply ashamed that vulnerable people are treated in this way. The system should be designed to make it as easy, straightforward, and stress-free as possible for people to apply for benefits. It the moment the opposite is the case. Things are made unnecessarily difficult and intimidating for people who are already in a stressful situation.
    Those who designed this process seem to have no understanding of the fact that, for someone suffering from severe depression, filling in even quite a simple form can be terrifying. Being “assessed” by someone you have never met before, who cross-examines you about a condition of which you may feel ashamed, and about which you find it hard to speak even to those closest to you – this is an ordeal that some people will just be unable to face, and therefore will not receive the benefits to which they are entitled, and which they desperately need.
    Policy should never be made without consulting with, and really listening to, the people who will be affecting by that policy. This has obviously not happened in this instance.
    As I said in my earlier comment, all that should be necessarily, should be a letter from the applicant’s own GP, confirming that the person meets the criteria for benefits.

  • I do understand why there would be some reluctance to have the claimants own GP making the decisions, although I think G.P’s are totally trustworthy, they could be put under undue pressure from some of their patients who do not agree with their decision.

    I do think assessments could be carried out at a different G.P surgery though, the point being that that G.P surgery would still have access to your full NHS records, they would be able to see the GP’s own patient summery, comments, Treatments, Referrals, medication, the amount of times the patient see’s the doctor. They would have a fuller picture of what is going on with the patient / claimant, far more than what the DWP / Atos / Maximus and come to a fairer more humane assessment. And of course it would be far cheaper.
    It would also stop the likes of Atos and maximus poaching highly skilled Paramedics to carry out assessments for them, we have a shortage of paramedics in this country, we go to great lengths and costs to train them, to then lose them to companies like Atos / maximus, it is not only a waste of their valuable skills but a loss to the NHS who badly needs these people.

    Of course, I prefer your idea of it should be a simple judgement of one’s own G.P, confirming that a person meets the criteria, however, I can not see any government / party supporting that

  • “It is a shame that GPs will not currently entertain being part of the welfare system and allowing government to rely on their professional judgment on the ability of someone to work therefore enabling us to get rid os ESA assessments and make the PIP process easier.”

    There are sound reasons for that – it could seriously affect the GP patient relationship if they were to say that someone was fit for work and they disputed it.

    But really what was said above. PIP was introduced to reduce the DLA bill and it subtley tightened the criteria for qualification. It was – as a Minister admited – introduced without being “able to assess what effect the introduction of PIP will have on the number of disabled people living in relative poverty.”

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 27th Feb '17 - 7:56am

    Matt and Hywel, Yes, thinking it over in the light of what you have said, I can see that it is true that there could be difficulties in involving the applicants own GP, in that it could potentially be damaging to the relationship between doctor and patient. Although of course GPs do, at present, confirm that people are entitled to sick leave, and this does not often seem to lead to problems in the GP patient relationship.
    If an assessment does have to be carried out by someone the applicant does not know, then it is important to ensure that the process is as compassionate and stress-free as possible.

  • @Catherine Jane Crosland

    “If an assessment does have to be carried out by someone the applicant does not know, then it is important to ensure that the process is as compassionate and stress-free as possible.

    “If an assessment does have to be carried out by someone the applicant does not know, then it is important to ensure that the process is as compassionate and stress-free as possible.”

    I agree entirely.
    That’s why I think assessments should be carried out at other G.P practices other than the patients / claimants own practice, but still in the comfort of knowing that the G.P who is assessing him / her will have full access to their entire medical history and will be able to come to a thorough and fairer assessment.

    I really hope this article can get some more attention over the next week. It is such an important issue, the legislation and the budget is coming up over the next week, MP’s and the lords really need to see this has the support of the people. Hopefully they will be able to block / amend the governments proposed legislation.

    All though it does not sit entirely comfortably with me. I wondered if Liberal Democrats could propose an amendment, which might be seen as a compromise with the Government. Where the Government has proposed government legislation say
    “For reasons other than psychological distress” to include the words, unless confirmed by a psychiatric diagnosis.

    At least that might provide some protection for some of the severest cases of vulnerable people suffering from mental health.

    How would one go about suggesting something along these lines to an MP or a member of the lords? Or would one of the editors be prepared to do so?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 27th Feb '17 - 9:30am

    Matt, I think you are right in saying that it would be best if the assessment was carried out at a GP practice other than that of the patient’s own GP, where the GP carrying out the assessment would have access to the applicant’s full medical records.
    The bit in the legislation about “for reasons other than psychological distress” shows a lack of understanding of the fact that mental illness can often have a greater detrimental impact on someone’s life than a physical disability does. For example, someone who is blind or is a wheelchair user will have practical difficulties in making a journey, but will be able to overcome these difficulties if they are given help and support. But someone with a mental illness may be unable to face leaving the house, even with support.
    If you are thinking of contacting a Lib Dem MP to suggest a possible amendment, I would suggest that you contact Norman Lamb. He has an interest in mental health, and would, I am sure, be sympathetic to your suggestions. These days, the quickest and easiest way to make contact with an MP, is to begin by messaging them on twitter. I have found that Norman Lamb is very good at responding to messages on twitter. He often responds within minutes. Obviously there is a limit to how much you can say in a tweet, but having initially made contact in this way, you could follow it up with an email, explaining your ideas more fully. Or if you are not on twitter, you could, of course, just send an email.

  • @Catherine

    Thank you for that.

    I was led to believe though that there are strict rules about contacting a Member of Parliament and MP’s are only allowed to deal with the people from their own constituency?

    That’s why I was hoping that someone from the team might put my request forward for me, or allow me to pass an e-mail through them 😉

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 27th Feb '17 - 10:18am

    Matt, I think the rule is that if you were asking for help just for yourself, as an individual, about some personal matter, then you have to ask your own MP. But if it is about some general political issue, then you can certainly contact any MP.

  • @Catherine Jane Crosland

    Again thank you.

    Problem is, it does effect me, or it might in the near future, I don’t actually claim PIP at the moment, I am in the process of being migrated to it.

    But I suffer from and am diagnosed by a Psychiatrist with Severe Major Depressive Disorder, Severe Anxiety, Complex-PTSD and Social Phobia, so it is a grey area me contacting member’s of parliament other than my own on this issue and it would be hard for me to contact an MP without talking about my own experience.
    I would not then want to put that MP in a position of breaking parliamentary protocol.

    But I do feel this issue is important, not just for me but other vulnerable people out there who are going to be severely effected by this.

  • Catherine, it’s more complex than that. A while ago I was trying to contact a number of our MPs. Several didn’t have an appropriate contact mechanism on their website for the issue I was concerned about, and when I rang their office, their office staff refused to help as I should contact my local MP. Even when I fully explained, they refused to provide any help or guidance.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 27th Feb '17 - 3:03pm

    Matt, I’m sorry about the delay in replying. Actually I tried to reply to you a few hours ago, but was temporarily blocked by Lib Dem Voice because I’d made too many recent comments!
    My understanding of the rules is that it would be fine for you to contact Norman Lamb or another Lib Dem MP, and it would also be fine for you to mention your own experience, so long as it was just a matter of expressing your views about the legislation, and suggesting a possible amendment. It would only be if you were asking for help with your own personal claim for benefits that it would be “casework”, which could only be dealt with by your own MP. The fact that an amendment might be beneficial to you, as well as to thousands of others, would not mean that it came into the category of personal help for you as an individual. That is my understanding of the rules, anyway.
    I would suggest that you go ahead and contact Norman Lamb.
    Your voice, as someone directly affected by this legislation, needs to be heard.

  • @Catherine

    Thank you for your reply, I also was also delayed replying because i made to many comments. I appreciate your responses and I will do as you suggest, who know’s it might do some good.

    Some further information that people might be interested in

    The Government produced their own analysis of which claimants and conditions would be affected by this.
    “Table 6: Conditions most likely affected by reversing effect of UT judgment on mobility activity 1.”
    Mood disorders – Other / type not known
    Psychotic disorders – Other / type not known
    Schizoaffective disorder Phobia –
    Social Panic disorder
    Learning disability – Other / type not known
    Generalized anxiety disorder
    Alcohol misuse
    Anxiety and depressive disorders – mixed Anxiety disorders – Other / type not known
    Bipolar affective disorder (Hypomania / Mania)
    Cognitive disorder due to stroke Cognitive disorders – Other / type not known
    Depressive disorder
    Drug misuse
    Stress reaction disorders – Other / type not known
    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    Phobia – Specific Personality disorder
    Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
    Whilst there are a couple in the list that I think most people would probably agree with, the vast majority of these conditions are seriously debilitating and seriously disabling and it is wrong of the Government to rip away vital support that many vulnerable people rely on in order to maintain some level of independence, after all that was the purpose of the benefit “personal independence payment”

  • Can someone explain to me what a Prayer is to block this legislation?

    The mirror ran an article that makes no sense to me at all. It goes on about MP’s have to pray against it within 40 days and nights, what on earth is this all about?

    I am confused

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