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There has been widespread criticism of how the Government is cutting disability benefits and their undignified assessments. There are particular concerns as to how the changes from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) have been enforced.
A further attack on cutting disabled people's benefits was made in March, when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) amended the PIP regulations to make it clear that ‘effects of psychological distress are not relevant’ (The Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) (Amendment) Regulations 2017) when considering a claimant's ability to ‘plan and follow a journey’. This means many suffering from psychological distress will not get PIP to help them with staying active and maintaining their independence. The DWP brought in these changes without consultation, and they go directly against the ruling of three judges at an Upper Tribunal in November 2016.
“The new regulations are a ruthless response to fair and reasonable judgements and their only purpose is to cut the cost of disability benefits, regardless of the effect on the lives of individuals.” - Steve Donnison, Benefits and Work (www.benefitsandwork.co.uk)
This case will be brought on public interest grounds and intends to challenge this specific change in regulation. We must not let this change in regulations go unchallenged or let the Government further chip away at support for the most vulnerable in society.
Mind, the mental health charity, suggests that the legislation discriminates against people with mental health problems and may affect up to 160,000 people with conditions such as severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.
This is an issue that affects all disabled people in terms of upholding their rights to independent living. Winning this case would send a strong message to the DWP that they cannot just move the goalposts in terms of the PIP descriptors because they don't like the outcome of PIP claims and tribunals.
About this crowdfunded
We have set up this crowdfunder on behalf of Billie (not her real name) who is applying for judicial review of the change in PIP regulations based on her own experiences. She has severe mental health problems which mean that she is extremely vulnerable when travelling and needs a lot of support to do this reliably and safely. Because of her condition she often gets disoriented and confused and has poor concentration, memory and organisational skills. At its most severe she can travel miles in the wrong direction with no recollection of how she has got there, often having to rely on the public and police to help her get home.
Billie recently applied for the Personal Independence Payment, but DWP failed to recognise that she has difficulties in ‘planning or following a journey’, which means that she can never qualify for the enhanced mobility award, nor can she pay for the support she needs.
Penny Mordaunt, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work, stated, “people who cannot navigate, due to a visual or cognitive impairment, are likely to have a higher level of need, and therefore face higher costs.” This invalidates and completely misunderstands the experiences of people with mental health problems. It is clear to those who support Billie that she has significant mobility needs and requires support with planning and following a journey at a level equal to people with physical or sensory impairments.
As part of her condition, Billie experiences amnesia and confusion. If this were as a result of dementia, she would still be eligible for the enhanced award of the mobility component under the new rules. Because her symptoms are as a result of psychological trauma however, her difficulties are dismissed and she is not entitled to PIP (mobility component).
But this is not just about Billie; we know that people with mental health needs have a variety of difficulties with going out and travelling and these new provisions mean their independence will be further curtailed.
We believe this change in the descriptors is discriminatory to people with mental health needs, and that the Government’s failure to consult hasn’t allowed mental health experts to advise on the complexities.
Initial investigatory work has taken place, and initial positive advice has been given. Public Law Project, with Human Rights barrister Aileen McColgan of Matrix Chambers, have agreed to investigate further on a Conditional Fee Arrangement (i.e. a ‘no win no fee basis’). However, Billie is currently unable to work because of her disabilities and relies entirely on benefits, so is unable to bear the adverse costs of the case herself and needs your support.
What we're raising money for
We are raising £3,000 for disbursement costs (such as court fees).
Our stretch target is £8,000; this additional money will protect against the risk of paying the Government’s legal costs in the event she is ordered to do so.
The investigative work has been done and pre-action protocol for judicial review has already been issued.
The next steps will be:
Considering DWP’s response to the pre-action protocol
Preparing detailed documents and evidence to support Billie’s case
Applying to court for permission to bring a full legal challenge
Applying for a cost capping order to minimise Billie’s liability to pay the DWP’s legal costs in case she loses the challenge
If and when permission to bring the challenge is granted, consider what public support can be relied on to take it to the next level
Billie is willing to use her lived experience to demonstrate to the court the unfairness of the DWP’s new regulations, but she needs your help to do this. Please support her by making a pledge and sharing this campaign.