People think disability benefits are too low, new opinion polls show

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People think disability benefits are too low, new opinion polls show

The government announced in April its desire to reform the core disability benefit. (Alamy)

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Exclusive: A significant majority of people believe disability benefits need reform and that current benefit levels are too low, according to a new poll from Savanta for PoliticsHome.

In the survey of 2,280 people, carried out after the government announced its intention to reform Personal Independent Payments (PIP) last month, 39 percent of people said disability benefits needed ‘major reforms’, while 37 percent responded that they were in trouble. need for “some reform”. 12 percent of people said they “don’t need many reforms,” ​​while only 4 percent responded that they “don’t need any reforms at all.”

Respondents also believed that current disability benefits were too low, with 17 percent saying they were “much too low,” and 21 percent saying they were “somewhat too low.” 10 percent said current levels were “a little too high,” while 8 percent felt the levels were “much too high” – while 28 percent said they believed they were “about right.” And 42 percent of respondents said claimants should be paid more, while 22 percent claimants should be paid the same, and only 15 percent said claimants should be paid less.

Despite the government wanting to make claiming PIP more difficult, most respondents say current PIP assessments should “stay the same” (20 percent) or “be more flexible” (27 percent). 39 percent thought the assessments should be stricter.

PIP, which replaced the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2013, was set up to support people facing additional costs as a result of living with a disability, with a maximum weekly payment of £184.30.

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However, the rising number of PIP claimants, especially since the pandemic, has been described as “unsustainable” by the government, with spending on the benefit expected to rise by 52 per cent to £32.8 billion by 2027/2028.

Amid reforms proposed in the government’s Green Paper on PIP, which was released at the end of April, concerns the tightening of eligibility criteria for the benefit, offering treatment options in lieu of payments, and alternative forms of support in lieu of cash payments, such as vouchers. The government has also said it wants to make it harder to claim PIP for conditions such as anxiety and depression.

“It is clear that our disability benefits system is not working in the way it was intended, and we are committed to reforming it to ensure it is sustainable for the future so that we can continue to provide support to those who really need it need most.” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said this last month.

In March PoliticsHome reported Downing Street’s plans to focus on cutting benefits in a bid to turn around their electoral fortunes and shift attention from the ongoing power struggle between the Tory parties to the party’s economic agenda.

PIP Assessment CenterWork and Pensions Committee chairman and Labor MP Stephen Timms said PoliticsHome that PIP “was introduced to save the government money, and that didn’t happen”, which he said was one of the driving factors behind the reforms. However, Timms said the proposed reforms “[don’t] They seem to have been well thought out’ and he doubted how practical they were. ‘In [a] During the conversation I had with the PIP assessment provider, they said delays in NHS treatment are a major reason why more people are applying for PIP,” Timms said.

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“I think we need to fix that, rather than trying to cut benefits. That’s the problem: the NHS isn’t working well at the moment,” he added.

‘I have no idea what they’re thinking about, I just think it’s all very half-baked and vague. It’s very difficult to decide what they really want to do.’

Stephen Crabb, Tory MP and former Work and Pensions Secretary, defended efforts to reform sickness and disability benefits due to rising costs, saying it was an issue successive governments had struggled with. He added that there was “real concern among colleagues with a broad spectrum of views about the human and social impact”.

But Crabb said it was important the government got the wording on benefits reform right after criticism from campaigners, particularly over proposed changes to PIP eligibility based on mental health conditions.

“When it comes to passing difficult Social Security reforms, tone and language are extremely important,” Crabb said PoliticsHome.

“The government, and anyone making the case, has to be very careful about that and there has to be a tone of compassion that runs through everything.

“Because what will guarantee failure, especially when it comes to illness and disability, and when it comes to the welfare budget that requires reform, is a perception, this is only driven by the Ministry of Finance as cost saving.

“The government must be able to demonstrate that the reforms have a broader moral and social purpose.”

Iain Porter, senior policy advisor at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said PoliticsHome The government’s approach to PIP reform, especially its language around mental health issues, was concerning.

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Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride has said he is “committed to finding ways to make the system work better for people with the most severe disabilities and health problems”. (Alamy)

“We know that these kinds of hardships, poverty, not being able to afford food and insecurity itself, for example, are linked to poor mental health,” he explained.

“Just trying to make ends meet and not even being able to afford food naturally adds to your stress and worsens your mental and physical health, making it harder to get back on your feet.

“These are the kinds of drivers that are not going to get better simply by restricting people’s access to payments that are a lifeline.”

Porter also expressed particular concern about some of the proposals on vouchers instead of benefits, describing the proposal as “particularly concerning”.

“There is already too much administration and stress involved in claiming, it is actually a very difficult process to go through and it causes people a lot of stress,” he added.

Tom Pollard, head of social policy at the New Economics Foundation, said PoliticsHome that the government’s proposals on PIP “underestimate how many disabled people in general are struggling to make ends meet”.

“In reality, people are using PIP to help cover some of their living expenses, in part because the kind of benefit system as a whole is inadequate for many people,” Pollard said.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We are modernizing our disability benefits system to overhaul the ‘one size fits all’ approach and better target it to those who need it most. the taxpayer.

“We encourage everyone to have their say and respond to our consultation, which asks questions about how our assessment process can be changed.”

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