On 23 February the Government laid before Parliament the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/194), which came into force on 16 March 2017.  The regulations reverse the effect of two Upper Tribunal judgements, which had interpreted the Schedule setting out the assessment criteria for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) “in ways which the Government did not intend.”

The first judgment related to the PIP daily living activity 3 (“managing therapy or monitoring a health condition”); while the second judgment related to mobility activity 1 (“planning and following journeys”), specifically the assessment scores for those unable to undertake journeys due to psychological distress. An Equality Analysis accompanying the regulations estimates that around 3,000 claimants could ultimately be affected by reversing the effect of the judgment relating to daily living activity 3, while reversing the effect of the mobility activity 1 judgment could affect 336,500 claimants (with 282,500 no longer entitled to any mobility component). The former changes could predominantly affect claimants with health conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy and dizziness, whilst the latter changes could affect people with a wide range of conditions including learning disability, autism, schizophrenia, anxiety conditions, social phobias and early dementia.

In a press release, the Government stated that failure to reverse the effect of the judgments would have led to “substantial unplanned increases to public expenditure” totalling £3.7 billion cumulatively between 2016-17 and 2021-22, and that the changes are necessary “to restore the original aim of [PIP], making sure that we are giving support to those who need it most.”

Disability organisations have called on the Government not to proceed with the changes. Some have questioned how the changes fit with the Government’s stated commitment to “parity of esteem” between physical and mental health issues.

The debate has been triggered by an Early Day Motion tabled by the Liberal Democrats “praying against” the regulations.  The EDM, which has the support of other opposition parties, received 187 signatures.

Two motions on the PIP regulations were debated in the House of Lords on 27 March.  The first – a Liberal Democrat motion to annul the regulations – was defeated, but a “motion to regret” proposed by Labour’s Baroness Sherlock was agreed by 162 votes to 154. 

More information on this issue, including details of the debates that have taken place so far, can be found in a Commons Library briefing paper, Changes to the Personal Independence Payment eligibility criteria, published on 13 April.