DWP to change PIP assessments in crackdown on benefit cheats

The Department for Work and Pensions is planning to change the way people are assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in a bid to root out benefit cheats
The Department for Work and Pensions is planning to change the way people are assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in a bid to root out benefit cheats -Credit:Getty Images

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed plans to overhaul the assessment process for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in an effort to clamp down on benefit fraud. This move follows comments from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who expressed concerns during a speech on welfare reforms about the potential misuse of PIP.

In his address, Mr Sunak highlighted issues with the current system, where PIP awards are sometimes based on "subjective and unverifiable claims" regarding the impact of physical or mental health conditions on an individual's daily life. He pointed out that certain conditions are not detectable through medical scans or tests, leaving assessors to rely solely on the claimant's account of their condition and its effects.

Subsequent to the Prime Minister's speech, the Government released a statement detailing its plans. The statement addressed "concerns that the assessment process is significantly easier to game by individuals who seek to exploit the system."

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In a stark warning to current PIP claimants, the DWP has indicated that the upcoming reforms could result in a £950 income gap for some individuals, reports Birmingham Live.

The Government elaborated on its strategy, stating: "A consultation on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will be published in the coming days which will explore changes to the eligibility criteria, assessment process and types of support that can be offered so the system is better targeted towards individual needs and more closely linked to a person's condition rather than the current 'one size fits all' approach."

The consultation will examine the feasibility of "alternative interventions to cash payments" like treatment or services access as potential better solutions for individuals whose conditions are less severe or well-managed. PIP presently offers up to £9,584 yearly or £798.63 monthly, with 3.5 million beneficiaries.

In 2019, on average, about 2,200 new PIP awards every month in England and Wales were for conditions primarily related to anxiety and depression. This number more than doubled last year to 5,300 per month.

The Government claims this is causing an unsustainable surge in disability benefits costs, projecting that by 2027/28, PIP expenditure alone may increase by 52 per cent from 2023/24 amounts totalling £32.8bn.

Spending on benefits for working-age persons with disabilities or health issues have swelled by nearly two-thirds to £69bn since the pandemic outbreak. Currently, benefits expense surpasses school or police spending.

"It's clear our current disability benefit system for adults of working age is not fit for purpose," stated the Government.

In his address, Mr Sunak commented: "The whole system is undermined by the way people are asked to make subjective and unverifiable claims about their capability. So in the coming days we will publish a consultation on how we move away from that to a more objective and rigorous approach that focuses support on those with the greatest needs and extra costs."

"We will do that by being more precise about the type and severity of mental health conditions that should be eligible for PIP. We'll consider linking that assessment more closely to a person's actual condition and requiring greater medical evidence to substantiate a claim. All of which will make the system fairer and harder to exploit."

Other elements of the welfare reforms will address work capability assessments for those on Universal Credit. Too many individuals are being deemed unfit for work and receiving additional support through incapacity payments of £416 per month in addition to their Universal Credit, Mr Sunak noted.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride stated: "I believe our welfare system is about far more than benefit payments; it is about changing lives for the better. That is why we're bringing forward the next generation of welfare reforms."

"We've already overhauled the outdated benefit system by introducing Universal Credit, and now we are building a new welfare settlement for Britain one where no one gets left behind. The welfare reforms announced by the Prime Minister today will modernise the support available for those who need it the most, improve the value of the welfare system for taxpayers, and ensure that people are signed up to support back to work, not signed off."