Full list of DWP reforms planned for people on PIP, Universal Credit, legacy benefits or long-term sick

Rishi Sunak has set out a series of key changes to the welfare system aimed at controlling spiralling costs, cracking down on inactivity, long-term sickness and benefit fraud. The Prime Minister spoke of the “moral mission” to reform welfare as he announced major changes to the system in a speech on April 19, which led to criticism and accusations that the proposals are a “full-on assault on disabled people”.

Mr Sunak repeatedly stressed that the system as it stands is letting people down by not being focused enough on the work they might be able to do. He insisted the changes - including a change to the Fit Note process, stopping benefits if someone does not comply with conditions set by a Work Coach and a pledge to “tighten” the Work Capability Assessment - are not solely about cutting costs.

He also announced that Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will be given a major overhaul with a new consultation set to launch in the coming days specifically looking at changes to the eligibility criteria, assessment process and types of support that can be offered through the disability benefit.

Mr Sunak said the consultation on proposed changes to PIP will provide a “more objective and rigorous approach” in the benefits system. He suggested greater medical evidence could be required to substantiate a PIP claim, and that some people with mental health conditions may be offered talking therapies or respite care rather than cash transfers.

The PM said that “people with less severe mental health conditions should be expected to engage with the world of work” as he set out the UK Government's new plans.

However, disability equality charity Scope said the extent of the proposed change to PIP was “unexpected” and feels “like a full-on assault on disabled people” which could leave some “destitute”.

The PIP reform would only apply in England and Wales as 218,859 people in Scotland currently on PIP will move to Adult Disability Payment (ADP) and the devolved Social Security Scotland IT system before the end of 2025.

Scope’s James Taylor said calls were “pouring into our helpline” from concerned disabled people.

He said: “In a cost of living crisis, looking to slash disabled people’s income by hitting PIP is a horrific proposal. Sanctions and ending claims will only heap more misery on people at the sharp end of our cost of living crisis.”

Other proposed changes to the benefits system

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced plans to make the following changes to the welfare system.

Removing benefits from the long-term unemployed who do not accept a job

There are more than 450,000 people who have been unemployed for 6 months and over 250,000 who have been unemployed for 12 months. The UK Government says there is no reason why these people should not be in work when there are currently over 900,000 vacancies.

New legislation will be put forward in the next parliament to change the rules so that anyone who has been on benefits for 12 months and doesn’t comply with conditions set by their Work Coach - including accepting available work - will have their unemployment claim closed and their benefits removed entirely.

Amending Work Capability Assessments

The Prime Minister confirmed that the Work Capability Assessment will be tightened so that people with less severe conditions will be expected to engage with the world of work and supported to do so.

He said that under the current Work Capability Assessment, too many people are effectively being written off as unable to work without the chance to access vital support which could help them enter employment.

He explained that the UK Government is committed to removing the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) entirely and introducing a new personalised, tailored approach to employment support, with the aim of helping disabled people and people with health conditions reach their full potential.

The planned reforms are expected to reduce the number of people assessed as not needing to prepare for work by 424,000 by 2028/29.

Review of the Fit Note process

The Prime Minister has also announced a review of the Fit Note system to stop people being written off as “not fit for work” by default and instead design a new system where each fit note conversation focuses on what people can do with the right support in place, rather than what they can’t do.

As part of this, the UK Government will consider shifting the responsibility for issuing the Fit Note away from primary care to free up valuable time for GPs, while creating a system better tailored to an individual’s health and work needs.

A call for evidence has been published seeking responses from a diverse range of perspectives, including those with lived experiences, healthcare professionals and employers, both on how the current process works and how it can better support people with health conditions to start, stay, and succeed in work.

It’s important to note that while Fit Note policy and regulations apply to Great Britain, Fit Notes are delivered within health systems - which are devolved, so this change may not happen in Scotland.

Accelerating legacy benefits move to Universal Credit

The rollout of Universal Credit will be accelerated to move all those left on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) onto the modern IT system.

Changes to Administrative Earnings threshold

The Prime Minister has also announced that rules will change next month so that someone working less than half of a full-time week will have to look for more work. The UK Government has already set out regulations to increase the Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET) which determines how much support an individual will receive to find work, based on how much they currently earn and how many hours they work.

If someone earns below the AET, they will be placed in the Intensive Work Search Group and are required to regularly meet with their Work Coach.

The threshold will rise from £743 to £892 for individual claimants and £1,189 to £1,437 for couples - or the equivalent of 18 hours at National Living Wage a week for an individual from May.

The UK Government said that through these changes, over 180,000 Universal Credit claimants will be moved into the Intensive Work Search group, from the Light Touch group.

The change means that 400,000 more claimants will have more intensive support from Work Coaches. Claimant commitments will be tailored to personal circumstances and will take into account caring responsibilities as well as any health conditions.

Cracking down on fraud

A new Fraud Bill will be introduced in the next Parliament.

The measures in the Bill will give the UK Government new powers to:

  • carry out warrants for searches

  • seizures and arrests

  • enforce civil penalties more consistently and flexibly, and to a wider group of offenders

  • provide new powers to gather information from more information holders as part of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) led investigations into fraud

These new measures are in addition to legislation the Uk Government is introducing through the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill which will enable DWP to receive information from third parties that may signal where fraud is being committed.

The UK Government said this is one of the most significant reforms to benefit fraud laws in more than 20 years and will deliver savings to the taxpayer of £600 million by 2028/29.

It added that this plan will deliver a welfare system that’s “fit for the future by providing vital support only to those who need it most and ensuring they are supported to live with dignity and independence, whilst making sure that everyone who can work is expected and supported to do so”.

Citizens Advice Scotland’s Social Justice policy officer Erica Young said: “The Prime Minister is right to want to support people into work and about the positive effects work can have for people living with a chronic condition, but rhetoric around ‘sick note culture’ simply does not match the reality of our social security system, and the importance of supportive relationships with GPs to those struggling with work due to their health.

“Increasingly CABs are advising people who do not have enough to live on because years of soaring bills have wiped out their financial resilience. Many disabled clients in receipt of social security payments are choosing between buying food and charging essential medical equipment. Many are not accessing support at all.”

She added: “There is a real risk this sort of language can create a culture of fear and put people off seeking any type of help, including the support offered in Scotland based on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect.”

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