Earlier this year the Spartacus Network published Crippling Choices, a response to the government’s consultation on Personal Independence Payments. The report rejected all its proposed changes to the way aids and appliances are scored in PIP.
Out of 281 responses to the DWP’s consultation, only 11 were in favour of the changes.
But the government has gone ahead with its proposals anyway. The changes will mean that over 600,000 people who need help with dressing and using the bathroom will lose a portion or all of their benefit. Spending on PIP will have been slashed by £1.2 billion by 2020.
Although the mainstream media has reported the cuts to PIP, few have sought to challenge the DWP’s justification for the changes to the scoring of aids and appliances. The consultation claimed that the kinds of equipment that assists people in some activities like dressing and bathing are low cost and easily available and therefore shouldn’t be covered by a PIP award.
Emma Nock, co-author of Crippling Choices says reports of the PIP cuts miss a crucial point:
“The PIP assessment covers a small number of activities which act as a proxy for all the difficulties a disabled person may be facing. This is why it was so important to maintain the points scored for the use of aids and appliances. A person who needs an aid to dress themselves or use the toilet is not restricted in those activities only. For example, a person who needs to sit down while dressing likely has balance, mobility or strength issues that limit their capacity to engage in other household activities. They may struggle to lift a load of wet laundry out of the washing machine or to move around the kitchen while cooking and cleaning up afterwards. Neither of these activities are considered in the PIP assessment.
Again, the person who needs an aid to toilet effectively may be needing a support to stand up. They would also be unable to lift a load of wet laundry, if they can’t lift their own bodyweight without help. I would suspect they may also have difficulties using a vacuum cleaner, another activity that is not assessed in PIP. Alternatively, perhaps the person is using a long-handled aid to wipe themselves? Even with the aid, this person has limited mobility which may mean they are not able to wipe themselves effectively, meaning they have to change and wash their clothes frequently, leading to higher laundry bills. This person probably also can’t change a light-bulb, and so if they don’t have family nearby or friendly neighbours, will have to pay for someone to change the light-bulb for them.
These are just a few, small examples of where difficulties in the assessed activity demonstrate difficulties in unassessed areas of life. This is how PIP was set up to work, and so to reduce the points awarded for the assessed activities without giving new consideration to the unassessed activities is flawed.
The initial review commissioned by the DWP said only that PIP “may not be working as planned” and should be looked into, not that PIP was definitely not working or definitely did need tightening. The subsequent small-scale study by the DWP has not been published (an FoI request revealed it had not been written up into a report; the only information available on it is the otherwise unsupported conclusion given in the DWP’s consultation document) and has been challenged by disability researchers.
In a survey conducted by SpartacusNetwork, many additional cost and difficulties were identified by respondents as being likely to be present for the two illustrative examples given by DWP. This strongly suggests that the DWP’s belief that the use of these aids indicates minimal extra costs is incorrect. The aid may be cheap, or already present in the house. That isn’t the point. The point is that the person needs an aid in that activity, and that activity was chosen as representing other areas where difficulty is experienced. The person’s bed doesn’t follow them around to be ready whenever they are undertaking an activity that requires them to sit down or have somewhere safe to fall.”