The Government has recently made a very unusual announcement – it is doing something I asked it to! The Department for Work and Pensions has published a Statutory Instrument (SI) to change the regulations for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) based on an amendment I tabled during the Welfare Reform and Work Bill committee stages last year. To secure a law change as an MP in Opposition is far from common.
An anomaly in the regulations for this new-ish PIP benefit meant some disabled people who became terminally ill (with a prognosis of just six months or less to live) would have to wait longer for help. The new SI means, from April, the artificial waiting time for help is removed – delivering £1 million of additional, quicker help to a group of people at the end of their lives. This should relieve one small, financial burden from about 800 disabled people a year and their families.
I tabled the amendment on this issue in the Bill committee with the support of Paul Blomfield MP and his local Citizens Advice Bureaux, who also provided some of the real people affected by the issue. Examples included Carol, who is 59 and received £21.80 per week in disability benefits. In May 2015, following a diagnosis of terminal, metastatic breast cancer, she notified DWP she wanted her claim reconsidered under the ‘special rules for the terminally ill’ system. DWP awarded her over £100 per week extra to reflect her higher needs and prognosis. But, due to the current PIP rules, payment was delayed four weeks after her next benefit payment; Carol lost almost £240 as a result.
In Bill committee the Government were reluctant to change their legislative plans. However, with fellow Labour MP Paul Blomfield and Labour frontbench support as well as from some Conservative MPs and meetings with DWP Ministers, we managed to move the issue forward. It is welcome that the Government now recognise the artificial barrier to swift help built into the former regulations and has published the SI to ensure, from April, the issue is addressed.
I’m pleased to have helped get the Government to shift on this issue and to have had the chance to influence legislation in this way. I am even more pleased that Bermondsey and Old Southwark constituents gave me the chance to work on this issue last May and to have secured a law change within my first year in Parliament.