The government wants to reverse the effects of a court ruling which expands the number of people who can claim Personal Independence Payments (PiP). PiP is a non-means tested benefit, meant to provide extra money to people living with serious illnesses, disability or a mental health condition.
A recent tribunal ruling had said that claimants with psychological problems who cannot travel without help must be treated like those who are blind. Announcing the government’s plan, No. 10 aide George Freeman said benefits should go to the “really disabled people”. Clearly Freeman doesn’t know what PiP is — a benefit for people with serious conditions who need help with a variety of daily tasks. It is not targeted only at disabled.
Referring to the court ruling that has annoyed the government, George Freeman had said those “taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety” should not receive Personal Independence Payments. Who is he to know whether someone’s anxiety is severe enough to need help for everyday tasks? Is he a doctor? No, but in case you are in any doubt that the man lacks empathy, Forman tweeted: “Having experienced myself traumatic anxiety as a child carer living w alcohol I know all too well the pain anxiety + depression causes...”
Fair enough the man has direct experience of living with a panic disorder (agoraphobia, PTSD, panic attacks) which may stop you from travelling on public transport or going out of the house. So why object to people with these sorts of conditions getting PIP? Could it be that these conditions are very common? — around 2% of the population will be affected by a panic disorder at some point in their lives. And could it be that the government is trying to cut the amount spent on PIP and other benefits and don’t want to spend a potential £3.6 billion on people with any such condition, no matter how serious it might be? Could it be that the government thinks that those with mental health problems are particularly vulnerable, less likely to object to cuts, and less likely to see through the tortuous and often unjust process of claiming benefits? Could it be that the government wants to reduce the numbers claiming benefits to the lowest possible numbers, or as they like to put it “those who face the greatest barrier to living independent lives”?
Labour has rightly committed to reverse these changes.