People on PIP could see regular monthly payments of up to £737 replaced by vouchers under new DWP proposals

A new Green Paper sets out the proposed reforms the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) thinks are needed to improve the welfare support system for 2.6 million working age adults claiming Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in England and Wales. The proposals include making changes to eligibility criteria for PIP, redesigning the assessment process so that it is more linked to a person’s condition and finding alternatives to regular monthly payments.

Following the annual uprating on April 8, a successful claim for PIP or Adult Disability Payment (ADP) for those living in Scotland, is now worth between £28.70 and £184.30 each week in additional financial support. As the benefit is paid every four weeks, this amounts to between £114.80 and £737.20 every payment period.

However, proposed alternatives in the ‘Modernising support for independent living: the health and disability Green Paper’ outline a move away from a fixed monthly cash transfer system, which includes vouchers, a receipts system, one-off grants and making purchases for products or services through a catalogue scheme.

PIP was introduced in 2013 to provide non-means tested cash payments to disabled people and those with health conditions to help them live independent lives. PIP was designed to be a contribution to extra costs arising from their disability and be a more sustainable, dynamic benefit that would also pay greater attention to mental health than its predecessor, Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

There are currently no restrictions or stipulations on how PIP claimants can spend their money. However, DWP states that in the decade since it launched, the nature of health and disability has changed and the “caseload and costs of the benefit have risen significantly, reflecting increasing self-reported prevalence of disability”.

DWP Mel Stride recently explained: “We believe it is the right time to look again at ensuring government support for people with ill health and disabilities is focused where it is most needed.

“We also believe there may be better ways of supporting people to live independent and fulfilling lives and this is the idea running through this Green Paper. This could mean financial support being better targeted at people who have specific extra costs, but it could also involve improved support of other kinds, such as physical or mental health treatment, leading to better outcomes.”

The Green Paper adds that the DWP wants to consider whether supporting people through direct, regular cash payments is still the best approach, or whether other approaches would better target their resources - delivering the right support to the people who need it most.

It goes on to give examples of how disability benefits are delivered in other countries:

  • New Zealand - people submit supporting medical evidence verifying their health condition and also provide estimates of their additional costs

  • Denmark - awards for extra costs are determined on a case-by-case basis and issued by local government

Other examples are given for France, USA, Norway, Sweden. All countries have tighter eligibility criteria and require medical certificates, proof of purchases for products or services, and offer a tiered benefit payment system - full details here.

Alternatives to regular cash payments

The Green Paper explains that if DWP were to consider other ways of supporting people with disabilities and long-term health conditions - apart from providing regular cash payments - it could continue to contribute to people’s extra costs through alternative models.

These could include:

  • Catalogue/ shop scheme: i n this kind of scheme, there would be an approved list from which disabled people could choose items at reduced or no cost. This would likely work better for equipment and aids rather than for services.

  • Voucher scheme: in this kind of scheme, disabled people could receive vouchers to contribute towards specific costs. It could work for both equipment/aids and for services.

  • A receipt-based system: this would involve claimants buying aids, appliances, or services themselves, and then providing proof of their purchase to claim back a contribution towards the cost. This could work in a similar way to Access to Work, which provides grants for equipment, adaptations, and other costs to help disabled people to start and stay in work.

  • One-off grants: these could contribute towards specific, significant costs such as for home adaptations or expensive equipment. It could involve a person supplying medical evidence of their condition to demonstrate the need for equipment or adaptations.

The consultation accompanying the Green Paper aims to determine whether these alternative models could help people with the extra costs of their disability or health condition.

Other forms of support could include health care, social services care provision and respite, which it states are also important to help people to realise their full potential and live independently.

“We would like to understand whether some people receiving PIP who have lower, or no extra costs, may have better outcomes from improved access to treatment and support than from a cash payment,” it adds.

The consultation also aims to find out whether there are specific groups of people who have a need of a greater level of support than they currently receive, and whether this support should be financial or take a different form, such as improved access to healthcare - such as mental health provision or physiotherapy - or enhanced local authority support.

You can read the full Green Paper and complete the online consultation on GOV.UK here.

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