Despite fight by Lib Dems, government changes today deny up to 160,000 people suffering from mental health disabilities access to Personal Independence Mobility Component

As we reported less than a month ago, Liberal Democtrats in the Parliament have been fighting the government’s decision to deny disability benefits to 160,000 vulnerable people. The government have refused to listen and the new regulations came into force today.

Stephen Fry tweeted:

He links to this message from Mind, the mental health charity:

PIP is awarded to cover the extra costs that disabled people face. In December, courts ruled that people who find it difficult to leave the house because of anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental health problems should be able to receive the highest rate of PIP.

The Government now wants to stop the court’s judgement from coming into effect, meaning thousands of people who experience psychological distress when planning or following journeys will only eligible for the lower rate of PIP.

The Government say that they always intended this to be the case, and they are simply changing the law to make this clear. However, we simply disagree. At the time that the coalition Government were passing this law in 2012, we asked them about this specific point:

They said in response:

“Concern was raised that the activity takes insufficient account of the impact of mental health conditions on mobility. We do not consider this the case. Individuals could potentially score in a number of descriptors in the activity if they cannot go outside to commence journeys because of their condition or need prompting or another person to accompany them to make a journey”

Now they’re trying to move the goalposts. If nothing changes, these changes will come in to effect on Thursday 16 March and they can be overturned until Monday 3rd April. This is clearly against the original intention of PIP and runs counter to the commitment the Government made that people with mental health problems would be assessed in the same way as other disabled people.

Email your MP now and by adding your voice to ours, we can show that these damaging and misguided changes to legislation should not happen.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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19 Comments

  • I just wanted to take the opportunity to send a personal thank you to Norma Lamb and his office.
    I had a discussion on another thread https://www.libdemvoice.org/lib-dem-lords-aim-to-kill-new-tory-restrictions-on-disability-benefits-53391.html on this issue with Catherine Jane Crosland and I took her advice and I wrote to Norman Lamb personally on this matter. His office was the only one who took the time to send me a personal reply.

    Due to the personal nature of the letter I found it extremely difficult to write about my personal circumstances, it took a huge amount of courage on my part to reach out to a member of parliament, revealing my identity, I do not tend to trust people, especially the establishment, so this was a huge step for me to take. But I thought it was such an important issue, not just for me, but for many hundreds of thousands of people like me who struggle from debilitating mental health disabilities. I had to put aside my own insecurities and find my voice, not just for me but for the good of others also.

    I also wrote to my own MP Clive Lewis
    Jeremy Corbyn
    Labour Shaddow DWP Minister Debbie Abrahams
    The Baroness Sherlock Labour Peer Shadow DWP Minister
    Secretary of state for work and pensions Damian Green
    Theresa May
    NOT ONE of these bothered to take the time to send me a reply, Thanks for that, especially you Clive Lewis who is my constituency MP and supposed to be there to support people like me. You will not get my vote again.

    So I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to Norman Lamb and his team for taking the time to reply to me. I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate your empathy and the support that you give to those suffering with mental health, we desperately need more people like you to champion the cause of people with mental health, because clearly the Tories don’t care and Labour does not have the time to reply.

    Kind Regards
    Matt

  • It’s very typical of the Conservative Party and PIP was a terrible replacement for DLA in the first place.

  • matt,

    I fear it will be little comfort, but most people are good and few would wish this upon you. It is unfortunate for you and the rest of us that those that lack empathy tend to inhabit the roles which decide these heartless policies. All I can do is wish you all the best and hope these policies are overturned.

    Finally may I say I admire your courage and hope you feel empowered to contribute more on this and other issues.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Mar '17 - 10:42am

    Matt, I’m glad to hear that you contacted Norman Lamb, as we discussed. I’m very pleased to hear that he has responded – as I was sure he would.
    But it is very disappointing that the other MPs who you contacted, including your own MP, did not bother to reply.
    It must have taken you a great deal of courage to write these letters, and you were absolutely right to do so. Your voice, as someone who would be affected by this legislation, needs to be heard.

  • What the Government has done here is to change the dsescriptors and the legislation so that people who experience “psychological Distress” as a result of mental health will no longer score enough points to even get a standard award,
    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.

    The Descriptors never used to have the words “for reasons other than psychological distress” in then until these new changes came into force

    To receive the standard rate of pip you need to score 8 points and to get the enhanced rate you need to score 12 points.
    People who experience Psychological distress as a result of a mental illness will no longer be able to score in C, D or F
    That leaves only category (e) and will only apply to people who are totally housebound and NEVER leave the house.
    If you do leave the house but only in certain circumstances like visiting a GP or hospital and only then if you are accompanied by another adult for guidance and support you will only score (b) needs prompting, which only scores 4 points and means you are not eligible for an award.
    The Government has issued new guidelines to decision makes here https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/599343/adm3-17.pdf which gives examples of why someone should only score 4 points and so not receive an award.

  • What the Government is doing here is absolutely disgraceful; they are ripping away vital support that many vulnerable people need in order to maintain some level of independence which ironically is what this benefit was supposed to be for, hence the name “personal independence payment”
    One of Theresa May’s first major speeches after taking office was about righting the injustices especially those faced by people suffering with mental health. She has well and truly fell at the first hurdle. Where is the parity of esteem that she promised? Clearly it was just words.
    I reach out to all Liberal Democrats to please look at this legislation and think about the devastating effect it can have on some of the most vulnerable people in society and I ask you to please lend us your voice.

    P.S
    Thank you Catherine Jane Crosland, I am glad that I took your advice

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Mar '17 - 10:52am

    Matt, this legislation shows a terrible lack of understanding of the challenges faces by people suffering from mental illness. It is obvious that those who devised this legislation did not bother to consult with those who will be affected by it. That is why, as I said in my comment above, it is so important that your voice should be heard.

  • I would like to pose a scenario which reflect the changes to these legislation’s to get readers opinions if that is ok.
    Scenario
    2 people with different disabilities are faced with the same task, to undertake a journey to a location that is known to them. In this instance we are going to use Doctors Surgery for an appointment

    Person A) has a sensory impairment and requires the use of an aid dog, the assistance dog helps person A to navigate obstacles, to look out for dangers and for support, Person A, would not be able to undertake this journey unless they had the support of the assistance dog or another person

    Person B) has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety / Depression, Social phobia, Agoraphobia. Person B only leaves the house when they have the assistance of another person. When outdoors Person B becomes so distressed by events, this can trigger episodes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms. Symptoms include flash backs to an event that has caused much psychological harm and distress, Visual hallucinations of the event makes the person feel that they are in another place, reliving the distressing event as though it is really happening at that moment in time. Due to this they are completely unaware of their immediate surroundings. Coming out of this episode is extremely distressing for person B, they are confused and disorientated and full of fear, their entire thought process is filled only with getting home and getting safe. They are no longer capable of following the route because their brain will not quieten down enough to think. The person becomes like a petrified dog that will run off at full speed, unaware of dangers / hazzards / roads and petrified of people, all they can think of is getting home to their bed and cowering, they have put themselves and others in danger whilst in this panicked state of mind. Had person (B) had the support of another person, they may have been able to complete the journey, if not they would have still had the support of another person to help alleviate the situation and get them home as safely as possible.

    Now my question to LDV readers is

    Which Person should be entitled to support and eligible for this benefit?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th Mar '17 - 3:58pm

    Matt, clearly both person A and person B should be entitled to support and benefits. But your scenario shows that person B, suffering from a mental illness, has by far the greater difficulties to contend with, and is likely to need far more help to overcome them. That is what this government fails to understand.

  • @frankie
    Thank you, and can I just say that I am sure that your kind words and support are a comfort to many a disabled persons (myself inc), many of whom are feeling more vulnerable than ever due to these constant government changes to disability benefits. many struggle each day finding themselves in an eternal battle with their own mind, if fighting on that front is not enough, they find themselves subject to an onslaught pincer attack from the Government.
    To wake up each morning facing these challenges is exhausting.

    @Catherine Jane Crosland

    Thank you for your comments and I am thankful for your advice and for encouraging me to reach out. I was petrified in doing so, but am glad that i did.

    I also need to set the record straight out of fairness.
    I just got a detailed E-mail response from my own MP, Clive Lewis which also confirms that he has signed the Liberal Democrats motion. As I bagged him out on this thread for not responding to me, it is only right and proper that I set the record straight.

    I urge all LDV readers to contact your MP and ask them to support the Liberal Democrat motion to reverse this legislation.

  • I am going to bump this topic up again as I think it really deserves more support and attention.

    There is less than 2 weeks left now for Tim Farrons prayer motion to be accepted and debated in the commons with the hope of getting this awful legislation changes reversed.

    Please familiarise yourself with these legislation changes and see the effects it will have on hundreds of thousands of disabled people suffering with serious mental health conditions.
    Contact your MP and ask them to support the Liberal Democrat motion, you can use the online form here https://action.mind.org.uk/tell-your-mp-halt-pip-changes?_ga=1.9619126.2061315633.1479817643

  • Whilst I hope the victims of London’s terror attack make a full and swift recovery, i think it is also the time to talk about the kind of support they can and should expect should the worse happens and they are left with debilitating mental health issues as a result of the trauma that they experienced.
    Hence the reason why I am re-raising this thread.

    What if any of those mowed down by this hiddious vicious heinous crime are left so Psychologically Distressed by this event that they go onto develop severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety Disorder or Agoraphobia and the only way that they can go outdoors again is if they have someone with them for guidance and support because of “psychological distress”
    Should they be entitled to that support and receive Personal Independence Payments in order to help them to maintain some level of independence? Because under these changes to PIP, they would not meet the criteria in order to be eligible for an award.

    This is how cruel these changes to pip are and how blasé the Government is when using the term “psychological distress” in order to justify cutting benefits to disabled people who live with debilitating mental health conditions

    Kind Regards

    Matt

  • Tim Farron’s Prayer motion only has 7 days left to get this legislation overturned.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 27th Mar '17 - 10:57am

    Matt, You are right to raise this important matter again. Tragically, it is very likely, as you say,that some of the people who were affected by the terrible events in London last week, may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, and find it very hard to make journeys without help and support. It is cruel that they would be denied benefits on the grounds that their disability is “psychological”.
    We must continue to campaign on this issue. Over the weekend, tens of thousands of people took part in pro EU marches. But where are the marches in solidarity with people suffering from mental illness, and in danger of losing the benefits on which they depend?

  • @Catherine Jane Crosland

    Like you I am very worried about the lasting Psychological effect of last weeks terrorist attack might have on some of the victims. I hope that they are offered intensive Psychological therapy at the very earliest opportunity in the hope of preventing serious adverse mental health difficulties arising. Problem is though, trauma based Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other Psychological Disorders which are a result of trauma can manifest at any time and does not play by any rules or timetables.
    Should any of the Victims develop any of the conditions, we would hope that
    A) They are offered all the psychological Support that they need, access to talking therapies, Trauma-Focused-CBT, EMDR etc. And these must not be rationed to 12-15 sessions like they are now
    and
    B) Access to disability benefit in order for them to get the support that they need to travel outdoors, to try and prevent them from becoming totally housebound which can deteriorate mental health difficulties further still.

    The way the Government is using the word “psychological distress” in such a blase way is just awful.
    I don’t want to use the victims of this terrorist attack as an example, but I think sometimes people need to see an example of the kind of people who are going to be affected by these changes to disability benefits because the Government has inserted the words “For reasons other than psychological distress” in order to deny the benefit to a whole range of people suffering from psychological disorders.

    I too am very disappointed that there has not been more focus and public marches about these changes to PIP and what it is going to mean for up to 160’000 disabled people.

    Thanks again Catherine for your comments, I was getting worried about the lack of comments and interest on these threads. I am worrying that maybe I am the problem, I have not exactly been a friend to Liberal Democrats in the past and maybe my postings puts people off commenting/ engaging in anything I have to say.
    Maybe I should step away as my presence is doing more harm than good, but I do wish this would get more airtime as there is only 1 week to overturn this legislation

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 27th Mar '17 - 12:11pm

    Matt, It is a pity people have not been commenting more about this subject, but I’m absolutely sure there is nothing personal in this. Actually I’m sure most people on Lib Dem Voice do care about this issue, but unfortunately many people are being distracted by all the focus on Brexit. Actually, I was wondering whether you might consider writing an article on Lib Dem Voice yourself about this issue? Although most Lib Dem Voice articles are by members, they do sometimes publish articles by people who are not members, and you are obviously especially qualified to write about this subject, from your own personal experience.

  • @Catherine Jane Crosland

    I wish I was in the right place / space to write an article for LDV. Unfortunately I had a major episode a couple of weeks ago where I had very strong suicidal ideation which put me in a crisis situation.
    I have written articles for LDV before https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-i-need-the-liberal-democrats-to-stand-up-for-me-when-conservative-ministers-denigrate-me-36486.html
    It takes a huge toll on me to write about those things and at the moment I do not feel that the foundations are strong enough for me to go there at the moment, if I were to go down this route I need to have more confidence / trust in myself, to feel safe. At the moment that is lacking to much for me to take that risk and it is important for me to recognise my limits.

    As a person though I do still feel compelled to raise these issues and raise awareness of what is going on in the UK and of those facing mental health disabilities, so I try to focus on the “disability” itself and how it and these changes might effect others and so I try to speak out and have a voice when I can.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 27th Mar '17 - 1:29pm

    Matt, I am so sorry to hear that you have been going through such a difficult time recently. I do understand that it might not be a good idea for you to try to write an article right now, as it is important that you should avoid any additional stress. You have already done a good deal on this site, through comments, to raise awareness of this important subject.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Mar '17 - 1:43pm

    Persevere Matt. I look forward to seeing you better soon. 🙂 Thanks for raising awareness of the issue of PIP changes and other areas of mental health.

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