I share the concerns that have been raised with me about the Government’s planned changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
PIP is meant to help people living with disabilities and health conditions to fund their living costs, including the additional costs faced because of their condition. Labour has been calling for some time for mental health to be given equal priority to physical health. We believe that mental and physical health needs must be treated equally. However, it is clear that this is still not happening. I believe we should be caring for people living with an illness or a disability, rather than making their lives worse through cuts to entitlement to PIP.
On the 23 February 2017, new regulations were issued to clarify the criteria used in assessing eligibility for PIP. The regulations followed tribunal rulings, which allowed chronic "psychological distress" to be included in the PIP assessment. The Conservative Government believes that the regulations will restore the original aim of PIP.
However, I believe that the decision to change the regulations governing PIP is a clear demonstration of the fact that people with mental health conditions are not given equal treatment. I am concerned that the new regulations, which came into force on 16 March, will reduce eligibility to PIP support for over 164,000 people living with mental health conditions.
I believe this is unjust and unfair. It also undermines the judicial process. I am very concerned about the impact of the regulations on the health and wellbeing of those affected and the fact that as a result of these changes people living with a disability could be forced into real financial hardship.
I am committed to transforming our social security system, based on the principles of inclusion, dignity and support. I believe that the Government’s £3.7 billion reduction to PIP should be halted and I will continue to oppose these changes to PIP.