More than a third of Government spending goes on welfare, with the aim of making life easier for people up and down the country who would otherwise struggle. This bill, which amounts to more than £250 billion, is a constant source of political debate. Personal Independence Payment is a new addition.

The largest part of the pot actually goes on pensions but, in recent years, the Government has focused on trying to reform the system with a view to encouraging people as many people into work as possible and prioritising payments to those who need them most.

That has resulted in a move to the Personal Independence Payment – a relatively new form of welfare benefit that has drawn a lot of headlines. It’s important to try to understand what this is, what it’s trying to achieve and why it has garnered such attention if you’re to understand it properly.

What is the Personal Independence Payment?

The Personal Independence Payment, known by the acronym PIP, was introduced in April 2013 to gradually replace the old Disability Living Allowance. This payment is aimed at people aged between 16 and 64 and is supposed to help fund any extra costs that might be caused by ill health or disability.

As the Money Advice Service notes, there are two parts to the payment – the ‘daily living’ element which covers personal care and the ‘mobility payment’, which helps people to get around. The daily living element can cover things such as preparing meals, washing, reading and dressing.

The payments are weekly, tax free and not based on income or savings. They range from £21.80 to £139.75 depending on the individual’s condition.

How are they calculated?

As Sky News notes, a face-to-face assessment is carried out to work out the level of help a person should receive, and this is open to reassessment.

A points based system is used to assess the need and looks at how their condition affects their day-to-day life – such as whether they need help to grip utensils – and whether they can move around without pain or discomfort in a bid to look at both elements covered by the payment.

Why have Personal Independence Payments been controversial?

The delivery of the PIP has been the source of much controversy. Many have questioned the quality of the assessments being carried out and 61% of the people who have chosen to appeal their decisions have been successful and overturned them. At one point in 2016 there were said to be 82 successful appeals a day – leading to claims that the new policy was wrongly denying access to support to people in need.

Campaigners have also pointed out that more than half of people with mental health issues have had their benefit cut or reduced since moving over from the DLA to PIP – prompting questions over the suitability of the policy and assessments for people suffering with such conditions.

MPs have also been critical of the decision to pay two private contractors – Atos and Capita – more than £500 million to carry out the assessments despite doubts over their level of service.

Planned cuts to the PIPs forced minister Iain Duncan Smith to resign in 2016 and this measure, alongside other welfare reforms, has failed to bring down spending as much as the Government had hoped.

This, then, remains a live issue. Anyone in receipt of the PIP should keep their eyes on future budget announcements to see if further changes or amendments come into place in 2017.

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