Planned DWP PIP crackdown could include 'proof letter' and axed payments

Department for Work & Pensions office in London -Credit:PA
Department for Work & Pensions office in London -Credit:PA

A major overhaul of the Department for Work and Pensions' Personal Independence Payments (PIP) has been planned. The government says the current system is putting a strain on public finances.

Over the last 11 years, the benefit has distributed millions of pounds to disabled and ill people across the UK. But the government has now released a 'green paper', a comprehensive consultation document which highlights issues with the current DWP benefits system.

Among the problems listed is a significant rise in the number of people claiming benefits for mental health reasons. The document shows that PIP expenditure is expected to increase by 63 per cent to £35billion in the next five years, which is partly due to nearly a quarter of the population "reporting a disability" in 2024.

Seven drastic changes have been proposed as part of a government crackdown, from ditching cash payments to obliging disabled claimants to purchase items from an "approved list". Another suggestion is to require a doctor's note or proof of a condition from the NHS.

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Cash PIP payments end

Currently, cash payments are £184 for PIP claimants who can access the full support, which amounts to £9,580 a year. The government has suggested ceasing cash payments and instead issuing vouchers, the Express reports.

The government said: "Moving away from a fixed cash benefit system so people can receive more tailored support in line with their needs. In the United Kingdom, we have had a predominantly cash transfer system for extra costs since the introduction of Attendance Allowance and Mobility Allowance in the 1970s.

"Given there are other models of support used internationally, and the changes in disability benefit caseloads over time, we think it is right to ask about other models of support and the impact of these approaches, including stopping regular cash payments, if they were to be adopted here."

Cash replacements put forward

It also notes that cash can be perceived as "compensation for being disabled", as the government says: ""We also know that some disabled people view their PIP award as compensation for being disabled rather than as an award for extra costs".

Among the proposed alternatives is a catalogue scheme with an "approved list" at "no or reduced cost" as well as a voucher scheme. This could go towards equipment, aids and services. A receipt scheme would also require claimants to purchase equipment or services themselves and then provide a receipt to claim back some of the money.

PIP eligibility

The government says it could "redesign PIP" and make changes to the eligibility criteria. The assessment for PIP could be reformed to make it "more linked to a person's condition".

Carers' benefits

The government states: "We also recognise the important role that unpaid carers play in supporting disabled people and people with health conditions. If support for disabilities and long-term health conditions were to be delivered through a new system, there would be implications for carers' benefits. We will carefully consider these implications when taking forward this consultation on disability benefits."

Removing 'work capability' assessment for Universal Credit

There are plans to abolish Universal Credit fitness for work assessments and replace them with a single, new Universal Credit health element.

The document adds: "We think an assessment based on condition would require a greater emphasis on the provision of medical evidence of a diagnosis and we would need to consider the requirement this would place on the NHS and health professionals."

Mental health treatment

Mental health provision is one of the key points outlined in the proposals. The government says it is looking to explore "improved support of other kinds" that are not cash payments. They suggest "physical or mental health treatment, leading to better outcomes."