Almost half of disabled people reassessed under Government’s new benefit system last year had financial support withdrawn or reduced, new figures show.
Government statistics published on Wednesday show 47 per cent of people who were formerly receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) saw their support fall or stop altogether when they were reassessed for Personal Independent Payment (PIP).
Of a total of 947,000 claimants who were reassessed in the year to October 2017, 22 per cent saw their support reduced, while a quarter were disallowed or withdrawn altogether — meaning 443,000 people will have had their claims reduced or removed.
Thirteen per cent had their benefit left unchanged and 39 per cent had their support increased, according to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) figures.
A breakdown of claimants shows people claiming benefit for psychosis saw the highest proportion of cases either reduced or disallowed or withdrawn, at 58 per cent, while psychoneurosis and back pain also had high rates, at 52 per cent and 49 per cent respectively.
Opposition leaders and MPs accused the Government of “slashing away at welfare”, saying ministers were trying to balance “increasingly precarious” accounts on the backs of the most vulnerable.
It comes after figures obtained through Freedom of Information laws revealed that the amount paid to the private companies that carry out the assessments, Capita and IAS, has increased by an average of 30 per cent.
Responding to the new DWP figures, co-leader of the Green Party Jonathan Bartley said: “By slashing away at welfare, the Government is heading in totally the wrong direction. It is weaponising welfare against those it should help.
“It is time it recalibrated it’s moral compass and steered it’s policies in a new direction. We need a new, modern vision for the welfare state – one that removes barriers for those who want to work, while giving real choices and opportunity to everyone.”
Mr Bartley suggested that this could start by piloting a universal basic income that supports every person, with extra payments made available to those – like the disabled – ensuring everyone can lead the pursue the life they want.
On the considerable rise in the amount private companies tasked with carrying out PIP assessments are paid, the politician said: “The Government is taking food from the mouths of disabled people while laying on a banquet for private companies.
“This comes only a week after Philip Hammond revealed his biases by labelling disabled people a drain on UK productivity. It shows just how twisted the Government’s priorities have become.”
Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrats’ DWP spokesman, claimed his party had fought “tooth and nail” in the House of Lords to stop Government cuts to PIP, but that the Government had still “ploughed ahead”.
He said: “These shocking figures show what I and others have believed for a while; a primary objective behind PIP is to cut costs rather improve the lives for disabled people.
“The chancellor had a chance in last month’s budget to reverse the £12 billion worth of welfare cuts still to come, but instead he chose to continue trying to balance the Government’s increasingly precarious accounts on the backs of the most vulnerable. A bad business.”
Phil Reynolds, senior policy and campaigns adviser at Parkinson’s UK, said it was “unacceptable” that despite our many warnings to the Government about the impact of PIP, almost a quarter of people were continuing to lose vital support.
“This means that around a thousand people living with a condition that will only get worse are losing out, and in many cases, having to return cars that keep them independent.
“With around a year to go until the Government aims to move everyone over to PIP, this nonsensical, head in the sand approach needs to stop. It is urgent that the Government recognises the system is failing people and makes changes now, by fixing the broken assessment process and improving assessors’ training before more lives are ruined.”
Last month, the Government admitted that some disabled people had been receiving too little financial support to meet their needs, after a court found some disabled people were not being offered enough, prompting the DWP to alter their guidelines.
PIP, which was was introduced in 2013 to replace DLA, brought in a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews of a claimant’s ability to wash, dress, cook and get around as well as reading and communicating.
The system has come under fire on numerous occasions, accused of denying benefits to those who need them.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We introduced PIP to replace the outdated DLA system. PIP is a better benefit which takes a much wider look at the way an individual’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis, and is tailored to suit each individual’s needs.
“Under PIP, 29 per cent of claimants receive the highest rate of support, compared to 15 per cent under DLA.”
They also urged that decisions for PIP were made after careful consideration of all the evidence provided by the claimant and their GP or medical specialist, and that the “large majority” of reassessed DLA claimants had received an award of PIP.