There has been an "unprecedented" increase in number of people claiming personal independence payments (PIPs) in England and Wales over the last 12 months, with one expert describing the rise as "astonishing".
PIP is the government's main disability payment and replaced the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2013 as part of the coalition government's reforms to social security.
Increases in claims are being seen across all age groups among those with both physical and mental disabilities.
Yahoo News UK outlines what's happening and why:
What exactly are personal independence payments? PIP is a disability benefit that aims to support people who may have higher living costs due to a disability. People with both physical and mental health disabilities can claim the benefit. You can get PIP even if you’re working and have savings.
The number of new PIP claimants has surged. Between July 2021 and July 2022, the number of people applying for disability benefits doubled. This follows years of fairly steady trends which saw new applicants and total awards remain pretty consistent.
The increase in claims has been seen across all ages and conditions. Claims have roughly doubled across all ages, except among teenagers where claims have tripled, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Claims have increased for both mental and physical disabilities, though physical disabilities still make up the vast majority of PIP awards.
The DWP called the number of new claims 'unprecedented'. In the three months ending to October 2022 there were 200,000 registrations and 210,000 clearances for new claims – the highest since PIP began in 2013. It is also the highest figure for the third consecutive quarter.
Has the DWP got more lenient with claims? The data suggests this isn't the case. While the overall numbers have rocketed, the proportion of claims that are successful has remained consistent.
Is there a COVID backlog? No, according to Paul Johnson, director of the IFS. Commenting on the data, he said: "This is not a catch up from people not claiming during COVID, it is a huge increase in claims."
So what is causing the increase? It appears that the overall health of the population is getting worse. According to the IFS, the spike in new PIP claims and payments is "simply driven by more people in ill health and making claims". Separate data shows that at the same time as the spike in claims, the number of people reporting that their ill health affects their daily activities has also increased.
Why is the nation's health getting worse? There is no one simple reason. Experts suggest long COVID and a decline in healthcare standards as the NHS battles with record backlogs are factors.
What are experts saying? Paul Johnson described the rise in claims as "just astonishing". IFS senior economist Tom Waters describing the data as "terrifying". Waters said: "Figuring out what's driving the rise, and what to do about it, is really critical."
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