It is a pleasure to speak in this important debate. I appreciate the concerns set out by Debbie Abrahams, but the bigger picture is clear: the Government spend £50 billion a year to support people with disabilities and health conditions, which is an increase of £7 billion since 2010. The Government moved away from DLA to PIP on the basis that support should be given to those experiencing the greatest barriers to living independently. PIP supports people according to their overall level of need—not on the basis of a specific medical condition, but based on how their freedom to live independently is impaired. That is the right approach.
I chair the all-party group on eye health and visual impairment. Yesterday, I led a Westminster Hall debate on preventing avoidable sight loss, but of course in many cases sight loss is unavoidable. How we support those with limited ability to live independently is important. Sight loss affects nearly 2 million people in the UK, and the huge personal challenges and hurdles that people with sight loss have to overcome to live independently can never be underestimated. Through my work with the all-party group, I have seen at first hand the Government’s commitment to helping people dealing with sight loss.
Last year, the then Minister for Employment, my right hon. Friend Priti Patel, who is now the International Development Secretary, facilitated a meeting with her team about support to help blind and partially sighted people. We hope my hon. Friend the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work will meet us soon to discuss how PIP can best support people with sight loss, and I am grateful to her and to Department for Work and Pensions Ministers for their focus on this important issue. I am sure that she will agree that the Royal National Institute of Blind People does commendable work, and I urge people who are blind or partially sighted to contact the RNIB, which has created an RNIB toolkit for completing the PIP form effectively—both for the mobility part and the daily living component.
I wish to share with the House the personal experiences of PIP which have been collated by the RNIB and are available on its website.