Responding to proposals announced in the Health and Disability White Paper, Anela Anwar, Chief Executive of anti-poverty charity Z2K, said:
“Every year, too many disabled and seriously unwell people live with the fear of seeing their income cut off. Reducing the number of assessments they have to undergo is sorely needed.
“But just scrapping the Work Capability Assessment and relying on the PIP assessment is not the answer. The experiences of our clients and countless others show that these assessments are deeply flawed: DWP loses or concedes 4 in 5 appeals made against its decisions. Without fixing the assessments and decision-making, this change will simply create a single assessment with incredibly high stakes.
“Many people who cannot work find it very difficult or impossible to get PIP, such as people with shorter-term or fluctuating conditions, including mental health conditions. It’s vital that this new system properly supports them as well – but the White Paper only mentions a small number of specific groups who might be protected.
“We are also deeply concerned that the proposed changes remove vital protections against sanctions for disabled and seriously unwell people, and risk pushing them further into poverty.
“Ministers are right that the current system doesn’t work. But they need to go much further, and commit to fully redesigning disability benefit assessments alongside people with lived experience, with robust safeguards and accountability within DWP to ensure people receive their legal entitlements.”
Responding to other measures announced in the Budget, Anela said:
“We are pleased to see the extension of the Energy Price Guarantee to the end of June 2023, which we campaigned for alongside Martin Lewis and many other organisations.
“The Chancellor talked about a greater use of benefit sanctions. These are already at unprecedented levels, and the evidence is clear: sanctions do not work. All that threatening more people with harsher sanctions will do is cause more fear and anxiety, and more widespread and deeper poverty.
“The lack of support for private renters will also come as a bitter blow to hundreds of thousands of tenants whose rent isn’t covered by their benefits. These tenants will have no choice but to go into arrears, or top up their rent from their money intended for food, energy, and other essentials.”