New Clause 4 - Personal independence payment: timing of payment

Welfare Reform and Work Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 15th October 2015.

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‘(1) Schedule 10 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 is amended as follows.

(2) In paragraph 1(1), at start insert “Subject to paragraph ( ),”

(3) At end of paragraph 1(1), insert the following new paragraph—

“( ) Where a person in receipt of disability living allowance meets the requirements of section 82 of the 2012 Act his or her entitlement to disability living allowance shall terminate immediately and entitlement to personal independence payment shall commence on the same day.”’.—(Neil Coyle.)

This New Clause aims to enable claimants of DLA who are transferred to PIP due to terminal illness to receive their first PIP payment immediately after being transferred. Currently claimants must wait four weeks from their final DLA payment to be made and then another four weeks to receive their first PIP payment.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn

With this it will be convenient to discuss:

New clause 18—Review of Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment

‘(1) Part 4 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Personal Independence Payment) is amended as follows.

(2) Insert new section after section 79—

“79A Review of Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment

(1) The Secretary of State shall in each tax year review the standard rate and enhanced rate of the daily living (section 78) and mobility component (section 79) of the personal independence payment.

(2) In carrying out a review under subsection (1) the Secretary of State shall consider the effect on the rates if they were increased by—

(a) the percentage increase in the general level of earnings at the end of the period;

(b) the percentage increase in the general level of prices for goods and services, as measured by the Consumer Price Index or by any measurement formally replacing the Consumer Price Index; and

(c) 2.5 per cent.

(3) The Secretary of State shall within three months of this review concluding lay before Parliament a draft order which increases the value of the amount referred to in subsection (1) by the greatest of the three amounts calculated under paragraphs (a) to (c) of subsections (2).”’

For DLA and PIP to be triple locked to further protect their value.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

Thank you, Mr Owen. That was a bit of a surprise; I thought that there were more Government new clauses to get through.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) who supported the drafting of the new clauses. I also pay tribute to the citizens advice bureau that serves Sheffield Central and Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough for providing case studies. As the explanatory statement makes clear, the new clause is designed to improve support for disabled people who become terminally ill when they are already in receipt of DLA and are in the process of being transferred to the PIP. Welfare rights advisors have identified delays in support to that group. Are the Government were willing to address the concerns?

Today, we heard the Government again suggest that they are protecting disabled people and the most vulnerable. My new clause is solely concerned with terminally ill disabled people—people with an existing impairment or health condition and a terminal prognosis of six months or less left to live. It is very small group. On September 9, I asked the DWP for the specific number of people on DLA who would be affected by the measure. The answer I got back was disappointing—it was not from the Minister, but one of her colleagues. The answer was that the information on the number of disabled people affected by the issues “is not collated” by the Department

“and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.”

That was an incredibly disappointing response, not least because the DWP publishes PIP statistical ad hoc reports.

The most recent figures from May 2015 on registrations, clearances and awards indicate how many people within the figures might qualify for support. As of 31 March 2015, 774,800 new PIP claims and 123,700 DLA reassessment claims had been registered. For the entire period of PIP, the number of reassessments under the

“special rules for the terminally ill”

—to use departmental language—was 16,000. To put a figure on it to enable the Government to cost the measure, we are talking about just 800 people a year, roughly, who are disadvantaged by current process and would benefit slightly from a more sympathetic position from the Government. Those are purely disabled people who are on DLA and moving to PIP due to terminal illness. The new clause is designed to ensure that they receive their first PIP immediately instead of waiting four weeks from the final DLA payment and another four weeks before receiving their first PIP. When people are terminally ill, time is more pressing and precious, and that is a ridiculous amount of time to wait to receive support. That length of time was not required by the former DLA rules, under which the payment would have been received far more quickly.

In the welfare rights advice sector, the perception of the coalition Government’s welfare reform legislation is that it was an accident, rather than a deliberate policy designed to delay support for terminally ill disabled people. Will the Minister indicate whether making terminally ill disabled people wait longer to access vital support was an intended outcome of the change under PIP?

Citizen’s advice bureaux throughout the country have been working as part of the big society—we do not hear so much about that any more. In Southwark, those services have seen a 40% jump in demand. Their support for society has got far bigger as a direct result of welfare reform. I am grateful to the citizen’s advice bureau in Sheffield for providing information about Carol. Carol is 59 and was in receipt of the DLA care component at the lowest rate of £21.80. On 27 May this year, following a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, she notified the DWP that she wanted her claim reconsidered under special rules. The Department awarded her the highest rates of the daily living and mobility components of PIP, which equates to £139.75 a week. However, due to the application of transitional rules, payment was from 8 July—four weeks after her next DLA payment date. Had she been a new claimant for PIP who was not already in receipt of DLA the benefit would have been  awarded from 27 May. In Carol’s case, that meant losing £117.95 a week for the period of 27 May to 8 July. Some claimants in similar situations would simply not live long enough to receive their awards under existing rules.

I must ensure that I anonymise the next example, as I do not believe that I have permission to name the individual. C1 was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has had his right leg amputated below the knee. He received the DLA higher-rate mobility and lower-rate care payments. C1 was told that he could claim PIP instead of DLA but would then be entitled to enhanced care as well as higher-rate mobility. His PIP would not increase until four weeks after his next DLA payment date, so it might take four to eight weeks for the increase to take place, despite his significant disadvantages and terminal prognosis. On the date the advice was given, the client would not have been entitled to receive the enhanced rate until 30 September. He was given the advice in August. The individual has agreed to allow his story to be put forward, and he is happy for us to discuss his circumstances, but not to be named. However, it is a genuine example from Sheffield.

I have one further example. A man with terminal cancer of the oesophagus looked into claiming under the special rules, having received disability living allowance at the highest rate of mobility and the lower rate of care. Again, this is about the process used by the Department and the system of allocating transfer dates by postcode. The PIP rates would not apply until 28 days after his next payment date. He lives on his own, has income-based employment and support allowance, is in the support group and currently receives £125.05 a week. That should increase by £61.85 a week, but at the point when his DLA was due on 5 August, he was not entitled to the enhanced rate until 2 September.

Again, that is another example of someone with a significant health condition—a terminal prognosis—losing out as a direct result of what was perhaps an accident in the original legislation. He would stand to benefit if the Government accepted the new clause tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central and me. If Government Members believe that they are protecting the most vulnerable, that should include terminally ill people. It is difficult for medical professionals to give a terminal prognosis within six months, but those are three genuine examples of people who would have a small amount more funding for a small amount more time. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment or indicate how they will introduce their own mechanism to fix that anomaly, which leaves the most disadvantaged and the terminally ill without some support.

Again, for clarification, if it was a DLA to DLA claim, the support would arrive much more quickly. This group are losing out purely as a result of the PIP changes, rather than of a specific change to overall benefit payments.

I am grateful to Scope for providing information and advice on a policy idea that that organisation has championed. The idea borrows a little from the triple lock policy for pensioners of which the Government are  so proud, although I understand that some Liberal Democrats would claim credit for the policy. New clause 18 would require the Secretary of State to ensure that the value of extra cost payments, disability living allowance and personal independence payment are further protected through the use of a similar triple lock. DLA and PIP are critical in supporting disabled people to meet the extra costs of living with a health condition or impairment, which can be substantial. Benefits do not cover the full cost.

When I was still in the disability sector—I am grateful for the Minister’s earlier kind words about my role in that sector—my charity, Disability Alliance at the time, undertook the largest review of disability living allowance and discovered that the costs often far outweighed the benefit received. Scope has undertaken more recent work to highlight the extra costs associated with disability. To quote a figure mentioned in a previous sitting, the average cost associated with a disabled person’s health condition or impairment is £550 a month. The average personal independence payment award is £360 a month. Scope’s research on backs up all previous research, including the Department’s own analysis. It has not conducted research recently, but in the past, the DWP’s research suggested that costs outweighed the payments received by disabled people.

Costs will vary between individuals, but there are common causes, such as the high price of specialist equipment and higher fuel and energy costs. It is also easy to identify someone with a lung condition or asthma —mention has previously been made of the need to keep heating consistent to facilitate easier breathing. Transport is a particular cost, and we have just spoken about Motability. Another factor is the inaccessibility of much of public transport, especially in rural areas, which adds to the additional cost that disabled people face when they have to use their own vehicle rather than public transport. Routine medical treatment also requires transport to and from hospital or the doctor. Costs also arise from the unaffordability of insurance and the necessity to buy more clothing and bedding. A disabled person who is not able to get out and about may have more visitors, in particular more personal assistants and care workers, and although they are not obliged, it is the decent thing to offer coffee, and have loo roll in the toilet. All those are costs.

Scope provided a couple of examples. Lesley said:

“My 18-month-old daughter has cerebral palsy, and her new specially-adapted buggy arrived on Monday. I had assumed it would have a shade and rain cover included, but no—the cheapest …is £200. A rain cover for a non-adapted buggy is less than £20!”

That puts it in context, and it is an extra cost for which the family had not budgeted. The second example provided by Scope was that of Anabelle, who said:

“I have to buy shoes far more frequently than I would do if I did not have cerebral palsy. My shoes wear out quickly because of the way I walk. For example, the shoes I wear for work—9 to 5, five days a week—only last me two or three weeks.”

I thought that I got through shoes quickly on the campaign trial, but others do so as a direct result of how they walk, and that cost must be taken into account.

All those extra costs serve to undermine the financial resilience of some disabled people, which means that they are exposed to financial uncertainty in a way that non-disabled are not. DLA and PIP have a vital role to play in supporting disabled people to mitigate those  costs and in helping with the broader implications of financial stability—finding work, participating in the community and living independently as far as possible.

Before the election, the Prime Minister said that he planned to “safeguard” and “enhance” the value of PIP. Although DLA and PIP have been protected from means-testing or taxation, there is no indication in the new Parliament of any willingness to act to enhance their value. In the original debates before the legislation on PIP was finalised, Ministers indicated that one reason for the change was that some disabled people could expect a higher level of support as a result, but that has not materialised. If the Government are serious about their supposed commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in society, it is essential that the role of DLA and PIP in supporting disabled people’s lives is fully recognised and protected accordingly in legislation. New clause 18 provides that opportunity.

To enhance the value of PIP with a triple lock, so that the value of the payment rises by the highest of the consumer prices index, earnings or 2.5%, similar to the basic state pension, would be a welcome step in the desired direction. It would underpin the Government’s commitment to protect disabled people.

DLA and PIP are currently uprated according to the CPI, which is based on a basket of general consumer goods and services. It does not relate to the extra costs that DLA and PIP payments are intended to offset, as they are often for expensive and specialised items, including mobility scooters. In case hon. Members are unaware, there are a lot of assumptions about who pays for what, and people assume that wheelchairs are provided to disabled people as a matter of routine—they are not. A contribution is made towards a wheelchair, but even something as essential as that is not covered and there is no budget from the national health service for it.

Disabled people also use DLA or PIP to pay for various costly services. Survey data from the think-tank Demos show that disabled people spend an average of almost £65 a month on household tasks and over £40 a month on therapy. That information is available online—the report is called “Counting the Cost”. A triple lock on PIP is more likely to be aligned with the value of those goods and services, because it provides a wider range of inflation measures. Protecting and enhancing the value of PIP through a triple lock would have a major beneficial impact by supporting disabled people to meet disability-related costs more effectively and establishing a stronger sense of financial stability. We are talking about costs purely as a result of living with a disability or a health condition—there is no luxury in what we are discussing.

The triple lock would enable individuals to overcome financial barriers to accessing employment, pay more into savings and pensions and exert consumer spending power. That is essential to raising the living standards of a growing disabled population, and a key element in establishing a thriving economy. Twenty years on from the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, it is a fitting time to recognise that the extra costs of disability still present a significant barrier for disabled people, and we should act to address that.

It should not be forgotten that the disability living allowance arose from a report commissioned by a Conservative Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and was introduced by a Conservative Minister after she left office. So disability living allowance was a Conservative  Government achievement. We have an opportunity to improve and enhance it, so I hope the Government will accept the amendment.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle 4:00 pm, 15th October 2015

I support my hon. Friend and new clause 4. The Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for North West Cambridgeshire, talked earlier about a wider context, and I want to talk in a wider context now. Not many weeks ago we debated the Assisted Dying Bill—many people in this room were there. I suspect many Members, like me, voted against that Bill. We said it was a question of giving people dignity in death and as much support as possible in the weeks and months leading up to their death. The new clause would go a long way to helping with that concept, because we can have the abstract idea of supporting people who do not think people should be assisted when they are dying, but the new clause is a practical step to help those who voted against the Assisted Dying Bill to put that into effect.

We recently had a discussion about the hospice moment. I wrote an article about the movement in which I said it was part of the wider context and the wider support that we give in society to people who are on the doorstep of death—let us not beat about the bush, that is exactly what it is. The new clause is a practical proposal to help such people.

For those of us who have had a relative or a friend with a terminal illness, or for those who have worked in the sector and had to deal with people with a terminal illness, the new clause would provide reassurance. It would reassure me that I could be part of the process of saying, “Yes, we have helped you. It might be minor in some regards, but we have been able to help you in your last days and weeks.” That would take some of the stress from the family, and it might take some of the stress from the dying person as well. It is important that we play a part, even if we in this room can play only a small part.

There is another aspect. Some people with a terminal illness might have co-morbidity. They may have Parkinson’s disease; indeed, they may have Alzheimer’s. In those circumstances, it is incumbent on us to make sure that we link the abstract with the practical. This is a genuine opportunity to link our abstract principles and philosophy— on assisted dying, for example—with the practical implications.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark 4:15 pm, 15th October 2015

I also attended the debate on the Assisted Dying Bill, and there was a strong consensus that there was insufficient support for those who are dying or contemplating suicide. It is unfortunate that, even where there is an indication that some cuts in support have contributed towards tragic consequences for individuals, the Government are reluctant to analyse that properly and to prevent that from happening—not for any other purpose, but to ensure support to prevent people from taking their own lives and to support people at the end of their lives.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

That is a well-made point. The more we get into this debate, the more we have to move from the philosophical and the abstract to the practical. This is a practical example of where we can say to people, “You’ve got so many pressures on your life at the moment, the least we can do is try to take away just a little of the pressure on you and your family.” If we can just do that, it would be a small step, but a great achievement.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

Let me start by thanking the hon. Members for Bermondsey and Old Southwark and for Bootle for their contributions, and particularly the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, who has experience in this area from his professional background. For the record, I also thank the third party organisations that have submitted written statements to the Committee and its members. The hon. Gentleman gave some examples—not attributable ones—but I repeat my offer to the Committee: if there are cases that he or any other member would like me to look at, I would be happy to do that and to meet them to give support and assurance.

New clause 18 seeks to create a duty to increase the rates of disability living allowance and PIP by the highest of the CPI, the rise in average earnings or 2.5%. DLA and PIP are benefits that offer support, as we have heard, for those needing care or supervision as a result of their disability. New clause 18 would require the Secretary of State to review those rates every tax year, considering the effect on them if they were increased by earnings, prices or 2.5%, and, within three months of concluding that review, to lay an order increasing them by the highest of earnings, prices or 2.5%.

Making this change to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, rather than to the Social Security Administration Act 1992, would create a second review process of DLA and PIP rates, which would overlap with the general review of benefits conducted by the Secretary of State every tax year. That would create uncertainty for benefit recipients, who may find their benefit rates reviewed and announced at different times. Furthermore, the change would remove the alignment between the rates of the care components of DLA and the daily living components of PIP, and those of the attendance allowance, causing further confusion for recipients between working and pensioner age.

This discussion has been highly relevant, however, because we all understand and share the desire of hon. Members who have contributed to the debate to protect and to support those in receipt of DLA and PIP. That is why we have in place many protections, which I would like to set out. We already continue to uprate DLA and PIP by price inflation; specifically, we have exempted certain benefits relating to the additional costs of disability and care from the benefits freeze. Those include DLA and PIP, as well as carer’s allowance, attendance allowance and the support group component of ESA. We have also exempted recipients of DLA and PIP from the benefits cap. The welfare system continues to provide support and to protect those recipients. As we have heard, there are families who cannot work and require the support of DLA and PIP, which is why we have these exemptions. We have also ensured that both DLA and PIP remain universally accessible benefits and have committed not to means-test either. We have also committed to keep them non-taxable. We have built extra protections into the system for claimants who may need extra support.

That brings me on to new clause 4. During the course of our welfare reform programme, the Government have always made it clear that, in our steps to achieve a higher-wage, low-tax and low-welfare society, we will always provide support for those with the greatest needs. In particular, PIP recognises the unique challenges of claimants who are terminally ill. Special rules and criteria for the terminally ill have been introduced to ensure that the PIP system handles such cases both efficiently and  sensitively to reduce burdens on individuals and their families at what is inevitably a difficult time. PIP has a fast-track system to allow us to process special rules claims more quickly, with claims, on average, being cleared within six working days. Some 99% of those who apply under the special rules are awarded the benefit, and we have ensured that each of those individuals is guaranteed the enhanced rate of the daily living component.

Evidence for special rules cases is reviewed on a paper basis, and we do not expect individuals applying in such circumstances to undertake any face-to-face assessments. We have worked closely with stakeholder organisations to design a system that allows us to make the correct decisions in such instances without the need for a face-to-face assessment, thereby reducing intrusion and stress for claimants and families. It also helps us to deliver vital support for claimants in the most practical way as soon as possible.

In many cases where an individual may not be aware of their prognosis, or where that might be a particularly distressing subject to discuss, we have worked to design the system to support family members, or representative third party organisations, through the claims process to ensure that individuals can still access the support to which they are rightly entitled in a way that is sensitive to their needs. Through those steps, we have a clear focus on delivery for the individual. It is also important that case managers still have sufficient time in which to consider an individual’s case to ensure that they are being awarded the correct level of support and benefits. Reducing that time, as suggested, would potentially increase the risk of an incorrect payment being made. In such cases, the claimant would either be left with less support or little support. Obviously, we want to ensure that we are not creating any arduous or difficult processes. We are focused on supporting individuals.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Will the Minister clarify that point? My hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark has said that that happens automatically in the current DLA system. It happens in the DLA system, but not in the PIP system. Why would there be an issue if it is transferred to the PIP system?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

As I have just said, that would undermine its value. The best way to put this is that, importantly, it is about the individual and ensuring that we have the right rules so that we can support the individual in the right way.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

It is a bit disturbing to hear the Minister worrying about an inappropriate payment, because she is suggesting that the Department cannot handle this issue. It already handles the issue through disability living allowance so that people get the support when they need it. A very small number of people are moving from disability living allowance to the personal independence payment—we are talking about a maximum of 800 people a year, according to the Department’s figures. We are talking about a very small number of people and a change that aligns the support with DLA for those people in the DLA to PIP transition areas.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions)

I completely understand those points. The focus is on ensuring that PIP is delivered in the right way and providing the right support. Having listened to  the debate today, I will happily consider the views expressed. We are working with stakeholders under the independent reviews, as well. That is important for the efficacy of the delivery and roll-out of PIP. I will take the views and representations made by the Committee into consideration, and we will work with hon. Members, as well. I will be happy to discuss this matter further outside the Committee.

The hon. Gentleman touched on the issue of how frequently claimants who are terminally ill receive their DLA or PIP. Those claimants receive their benefit payment weekly in advance, as opposed to four weeks in arrears, the normal payment cycle for PIP. As I said, I am happy to discuss the matter further and take on board hon. Members’ considerations and representations. I therefore urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the new clause.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Labour, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

I thank the Minister for her response. It is good to know that there is a window of opportunity to explore this issue in a bit more detail. As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks on the new clause, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central and the organisations in his constituency can be included in the discussions.

The fast-track system the Minister mentioned is there not out of the goodness of the Department’s heart; it reflects the fact that these people have only six months to live from diagnosis. Looking to have equivalent support for those on disability living allowance who are transitioning to the personal independence payment gives us a small window of opportunity to make sure that there is no time lapse and that people do not end up out of pocket purely because of a postcode lottery.

I welcome the Minister’s commitment and hope the discussions she mentioned are fruitful. If things are not as clear as we would like before Report, there will be the opportunity to discuss the provisions in the new clause at that stage.

To come back to the earlier point about taxpayers, there are many disabled people who use DLA and PIP to support themselves in work. In-work costs are higher for many disabled people—public transport costs, different work uniforms or whatever it might be. We should not lose sight of that. It would be useful if the Government could give a stronger indication that they would be willing to consider having higher payments, which the triple lock would achieve.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn

This is my last sitting of the Committee. I thank all members, including the Ministers and those sitting on the Opposition Front Bench. In particular, I thank both Clerks, who have been tireless in their work, and Hansard.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Guy Opperman.)

Adjourned till Tuesday 20 October at twenty-five past Nine o’clock.

 Written evidence reported to the House

WRW 65 ENABLE Scotland

WRW 66 Plymouth City Council Cabinet Advisory Group on Child Poverty

WRW 67 Scottish Federation of Housing Associations

WRW 68 Southampton City Council

WRW 69 Gingerbread

WRW 70 UNISON

WRW 71 David Hall

WRW 72 Not published (This individual wishes to remain anonymous)

WRW 73 Disability Rights UK

WRW 74 Knowsley Council