Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Unfair and wrong

This government, like its’ predecessor coalition government, has pursued a determined course in cutting financial support and benefits to those on the lowest incomes and those with disabilities.
It’s bad enough that Mrs May is hitting hardest those who can least afford it. It’s even worse when the government tries to achieves its objectively by acting unlawfully, makes and announces decisions in ways designed to avoid scrutiny and then plays fast and loose when the courts say the government is wrong.
The latest example of the government’s degrading and unfair treatment concerns Personal Independence Payments (PIPs). It’s a replacement for Disability Living Allowance for people aged 16-64 with long-term chronic health problems or disabilities. A full roll-out of PIP was originally planned for October 2013; it has now been revised to by mid-2019.
In February 2017 the government changed the PIPs law through the back-door – it couldn’t be voted on by Parliament – to change the PIP regulations to strip entitlements from what it said was over 160,000 disabled people – a £3.7bn cut. The Government even failed to consult its own Advisory Committee about the changes. Labour MPs spoke out strongly against the changes.
The government then spent £181,000 trying to defend the indefensible in court. On 21 December 2017 the High Court ruled that the Government’s changes to PIP were both unlawful – because of the failure to consult and “blatantly discriminatory” against people with mental health conditions. Despite questions, the government remained silent about its response.
Then, a month later, late on Friday 19 January, to avoid scrutiny, the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced that the Government would not challenge the ruling. He said “(we)
accept the High Court’s judgment; we do not agree with some of the detail.” Subsequently, he admitted that up to 220,000 people could be affected, 30% higher than we’d been told.
It is clear that the PIP assessment process is simply not fit for purpose. It’s time for the government to listen to those with serious health and disability issues, their families and the doctors, charities and experts who are calling for urgent reform to the plans.