THE Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, has raised “serious concerns” over government proposals to exclude people with mental illnesses from receiving disability benefits in the UK.
His comments follow the Government’s rejection of a court ruling that eligibility for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is distributed to help people to cover the costs of long-term illness or disability, should be widened to include mental illness.
Bishop Dakin told the House of Lords last week: “Our understanding is that the introduction of PIP was intended to create parity of treatment for people with mental- and physical-health problems by basing the assessment on a person’s ability to carry out certain tasks, irrespective of the nature of their disability.
“Explicitly limiting access to the enhanced rate of the mobility component for those who experience psychological distress undermines this fundamental aim by reintroducing an unhelpful distinction between people with physical and mental-health conditions.”
The Lords voted 162 to 154 in favour of a Labour motion to “regret” the Government’s change, and called for a review of its potential impact, on Monday of last week. An attempt by the Liberal Democrats to kill off the proposals failed.
An emergency debate was called in the House of Commons the next day. The Labour MP Debbie Abrahams said that it was “highly regrettable that the Government have had to be dragged to the House to be held to account for this nasty piece of secondary legislation.”
On Thursday of last week, a second independent review of the PIP system concluded that 65 per cent of the more than 27,000 people who had appealed against rejected claims for the benefit allowance in the past three months had had the decision overturned by judges. Its author, Paul Gray, who chairs the Social Security Advisory Committee, said that the volume of successful appeals was “eroding the trust of claimants and stakeholders” in the system.
The Department for Work and Pensions spent £16.2 million (7.5 per cent) of its £216.6 million budget on PIP last year — the fifth biggest proportion, after personal tax credits (£28.7 million) and state pensions (£89.3 million).