Starting today, the Government is facing court proceedings to decide whether its changes to the eligibility criteria for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) without due consultation were lawful. 

Lawyers are set to argue that by the time a consultation was carried out, it was too late to make any changes to PIP criteria.

PIP has been mired in controversy ever since its announcement in the Emergency Budget of June 2010. Claims that the reforms were prioritising costs over people, were made early on, when the Government said that it expected to save £1.4 billion from disability benefits,  before the new medical assessment had been designed.

Today’s court case is challenging the Government’s decision to change the distance that people need to be unable to move in order to qualify for the highest rate of the mobility part of PIP.  Under new rules, the distance has been changed from 50 metres to just 20 metres.  This means that if disabled people are able to move more than 20 metres, even with the help of aids such as walking sticks, they will no longer qualify for the highest rate.  According to Government estimates, over half a million people are expected to lose out as a result of the change.

Not only does the higher rate of the mobility part of PIP pay an extra £33 per week, it also determines someone’s eligibility for the Motability scheme.  Many disabled people rely on Motability vehicles to go to work, college or attend medical appointments.  Without the extra support provided by the higher rate of PIP, some disabled people fear that they will be unable to continue working.

The change to criteria was introduced - without consultation - in December 2012.  Following an outcry from disabled people and organisations that work with them, the Government carried out a consultation over summer 2013.  The responses were overwhelmingly in favour of changing the criteria back to 50 metres, which is in line with other Government policies.  Despite this, the Government pushed ahead with the reforms, stating that “it is important that decisions on PIP criteria are based on an objective consideration of the policy intent for the benefit.”

Although a consultation was eventually carried out, lawyers will argue that it was too late to make any more changes to PIP as key decisions and financial commitments had already been made.  This means that, regardless of what responses to the consultation said, it was unlikely that any further changes would occur.  Alongside the Disability Benefits Consortium, of which we are members, we strongly hope that the court rules in favour of disabled people and the Government reconsiders its decision.


Rachel Bowen, policy & campaigns officer.