PIP changes: Everything you need to know if you receive disability benefit

The government has opened a consultation on the disability support system PIP (Personal Independence Payment), meaning eligibility criteria and other aspects of it could change.

Proposed changes come as part of the prime minister's pledge to reform the welfare system if the Conservatives win the next general election.

The criteria for getting PIP could change, as could the types of payments received by those who are eligible.

But what is PIP, who is able to get it, what is the government planning to change and who would be impacted?

Here's what you need to know.

What is PIP?

PIP is a tax-free payment given to people to help with the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or disability.

There are two parts to it:

  • A daily living part - for those who have a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability

  • A mobility part - for people who have difficulty doing certain everyday tasks or getting around.

It's possible to meet the criteria for one part or both parts, and payments vary for each.

Those who qualify for the daily living part are given either a lower rate of £72.65 per week or a higher rate of £108.55, and those who qualify for the mobility part either receive £28.70 or £75.75.

Who is currently eligible?

People aged between 16-64 can get PIP regardless of whether they work if they expect their difficulties to last for at least 12 months from when they started.

Those who have been told they may have 12 months or less to live can also apply and may get PIP more quickly.

Sufferers of both physical disability and cognitive or mental health conditions like anxiety can meet the criteria for both types of PIP.

There is no list of medical conditions that determine who qualifies for PIP. Instead, applicants are assessed on the level of help they need with specific activities.

For the daily living part, people might need help with things like:

  • Preparing food

  • Eating and drinking

  • Managing medicines or treatments

  • Washing and bathing

  • Using the toilet

  • Dressing and undressing

  • Reading

  • Socialising and being around other people

  • Talking, listening and understanding.

For the mobility payments, there is assistance for things like:

  • Working out a route and following it

  • Physically moving around

  • Leaving your home.

How does the government make its decisions?

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) carries out an assessment to work out the level of help a person should receive.

A person's needs are judged on a points system whereby the more severe the impact in a particular area and the greater the help that is required, the more points a person gets and the more money they receive.

For example, an applicant will get two points on the daily living score if they need to use an aid or appliance (like a prostheses or easy grip handles on utensils) when cooking a meal, or they will get eight points if they cannot prepare food or cook at all.

Similarly for the mobility score, the applicant will get four points if they can stand and move between 50 metres and 200 metres, and 12 points if they can only move between one metre and 20 metres.

The answers are assessed by health professionals who then provide a report for DWP case managers with recommendations on what to give the applicant, if anything.

Applicants can provide assessors with additional medical evidence as part of a claim, but it is not a requirement, as a person's self-assessment about the impact their condition is prioritised when making a decision.

What does the government want to change?

It is looking at changing PIP in a number of ways, potentially affecting those who are eligible for it and the type of help those who are granted it will get. Below we summarise the key points in the consultation:

Different assessment model

The government is looking at introducing a new assessment model based entirely or partly on the diagnosis given to an individual.

It says it is considering whether "evidence of a clinical diagnosis made by a healthcare professional could provide a more objective assessment of need" than a self-assessment.

In other words, decision makers may look at what clinical diagnoses people have rather than asking applicants how it affects their lives.

Eligibility reform

This is an alternative to changing the assessment model.

The government says it may keep the current assessment, but change the questions so that they are less repetitive and to "ensure they are working as intended".

"Our aim would be to ensure that the criteria are fair and that we focus support on people with the highest needs and significant ongoing extra costs," the government states.

The government is also considering looking at changing the length someone needs to have been suffering for due to their disability before they become eligible for PIP, because "we know many people who have short-term illnesses can make a full recovery".

"We also know that during the early phase of an illness or condition, it is difficult to understand the full impact the condition will have on you," it says.

It has not specified the length of time this would change to. As it stands, people have to show that the negative effects of their condition have been present for three months before applying and that they are likely to last for another nine months after PIP is first given to them.

Changes to payments

In the current system, PIP claimants are given monthly cash payments which they can use as they see fit, whether that be things like aids and mobility devices, covering increased energy costs due to special equipment or paying higher premiums due to their condition.

The government says claimants often use the money for common household costs or some "view their PIP award as compensation for being disabled rather than as an award for extra costs".

With this in mind, the government is considering the following alternatives to cash transfer:

  • Catalogue/shop scheme - where there would be an approved list of items from which disabled people could choose items at reduced or no cost

  • Voucher scheme - where disabled people could receive vouchers to contribute towards specific costs

  • Receipt-based system - where claimants buy approved aid, appliances or services for themselves and then provide proof of purchase to claim a contribution from the government

  • One-off grants - a contribution to specific, significant costs such as for home adaptations or expensive equipment.

Aligning support

The government is considering merging PIP with the existing support people with disabilities get from the NHS and their local authorities.

This would mean instead of going through a separate PIP assessment, it would be linked with local support networks. The consultation does not go into detail about how this might work.

Why does the government say it wants to change PIP?

It says PIP caseloads and costs are "spiralling" as there are now 2.6 million people of working age claiming it.

There are 33,000 new awards for PIP each month, which it says is more than double the rate before the pandemic.

In its proposal, the government adds: "This is expected to cost the taxpayer £28bn a year by 2028/29 - a 110% increase in spending since 2019.

"This is in part fuelled by the rise in people receiving PIP for mental-health conditions such as mixed anxiety and depressive disorders, with monthly awards doubling from 2,200 to 5,300 a month since 2019."

It says its main three priorities through making changes are:

  • Providing the right support to the people who need it most

  • Targeting our resources most effectively

  • Supporting disabled people and those with long-term health conditions to live independently and reach their full potential.

Announcing the consultation on 29 April, Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride told the Commons: "This government's priority is to make sure that our welfare system is fair and compassionate. Fair on the taxpayer, by ensuring that people of working age who can work, do work, and fair on those who are in most need of the state's help.

"We know that any additional cost arising from a disability or health condition, which PIP is intended to help with, can vary significantly and is unique to the individual circumstances."

He argued that changes to the current "one-size fits all" system will offer "bespoke support tailored to individual needs".

What do critics say?

Some believe the proposed changes are going to target people with mental-health problems and stop them getting PIP, and they have not been encouraged by the fact the government has not specified which conditions would be eligible for PIP under reforms.

Mr Stride suggested to the Times that people with "milder mental-health conditions" would no longer receive financial support, adding talking therapies, social care packages and respite care could be used as alternatives.

James Taylor, the executive director of strategy at disability equality charity Scope, called for an end to the "reckless assault" on disabled people and to fix the "real underlying issues".

"It's hard to have any faith that this consultation is about anything other than cutting the benefits bill, no matter the impact," Mr Taylor said.

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) branded the consultation "cynical and cruel".

Speaking on behalf of DBC, Ceri Smith head of policy at the MS Society, said: "If the government truly wants a 'stronger, healthier and fairer society', they should start by addressing NHS waiting lists and fixing social care. Instead, this approach will punish disabled people and push even more into poverty."

How can I have my say?

You can view the consultation, which is open until 23 July, here.

Once you have read it, you can respond online via the government's form or by emailing consultation.modernisingsupport@DWP.GOV.UK