People on PIP could see vouchers replace monthly pay of up to £737 under new Conservative government

The Conservatives have pledged to stop the rising costs of welfare by reforming the benefits system if they win the General Election on July 4. The latest offer from the Tories would help to save some £12 billion a year by the end of the next parliament, the party has claimed, by ensuring more working age people currently claiming benefits have a job.

Last month, Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuensberg programme that proposals already announced by the then Conservative government would be followed through. These include a pledge to reform the disability benefits system, specifically Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is now supporting a record number of claimants (3.5 million) with up to £737.20 each month.

And on the latest edition of the BBC One show, a defiant Rishi Sunak said the Tories can still win the General Election despite languishing in the polls as he claimed the UK is a better place to live now than in 2010.

Asked whether he thought he would still be in Downing Street after the election next week, Mr Sunak said: “Yes. I’m fighting very hard and I think people are waking up to the real danger of what a Labour government means.”

Key changes to PIP under new Conservative proposals

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.

Alternatives to regular cash payments

The Green Paper explains 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. People can share their views on the proposals here, but must do so before it closes on July 22, 2024.

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.

Welfare reforms

Previously announced proposals to pass on the responsibility for issuing sick notes from GPs to specialist work and health professionals are also in the Tories’ plans.

The Conservative Party claims the cost of providing benefits for working age people with health conditions could rise as high as £90 billion by the end of the next parliament - and have promised to bring those costs down.

The Conservatives also promise to toughen benefit sanction rules, speed up the rollout of Universal Credit, and clamp down on benefit fraudsters.

Meanwhile, Labour has promised Sir Keir Starmer’s first steps if elected prime minister would be restoring economic stability and cutting NHS waiting lists as “the work of change begins”.

“The country faces a big choice on Thursday. If you vote Tory on Thursday - or don’t vote at all - nothing will change,” the party’s national campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden said.

He continued: “The Tory Party itself won’t change - the lessons from partygate, dodgy Covid contracts and the insider betting scandal won’t be learned. Chaos will continue, and they’ll continue to put their own interests before the country’s.

“If you vote Labour on Thursday, the work of change begins. Our priority will be wealth creation to make the country better off.”

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