(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to make a statement on the recent ruling by the High Court over the judicial review on the application of personal independence payments to persons with mental health problems.
After careful consideration, I took the decision not to appeal the High Court’s judgment on this case. I informed the House of my decision immediately by tabling a written statement on Friday last week. The written statement set out my decision and the steps that my Department will now take to implement that judgment, although I welcome coming to the House today in addition to that.
I repeat once again my commitment to implementing this judgment in the best interests of our claimants and through working closely with disabled people and key stakeholders over the coming months. The Department for Work and Pensions will undertake an exercise to go through all affected cases in receipt of PIP and all decisions made following the judgment in the MH case to identify anyone who might be entitled to more as a result of the judgment. We will then write to the individuals affected and all payments will be backdated to the effective date in each individual’s claim.
In accepting the outcome of the High Court judgment, the Department does not agree with some of the details in it. The 2017 amending regulations were introduced in response to an upper tribunal case that broadened the interpretation of eligibility for mobility 1—the ability to plan and follow a journey. Our intention has always been to deliver the original policy intent through clarifying how symptoms of overwhelming psychological distress should be assessed. We are not appealing the outcome of the recent High Court judgment to provide certainty to our claimants.
Our next steps will build on the positive work that the Government are already undertaking: spending on the main disability benefits—PIP, the disability living allowance and the attendance allowance—has risen by £4.2 billion since 2010 and real terms spending on disability benefits will be higher every year to 2020 than in 2010. The Government have commissioned two expert-led reviews and invested a record £11.6 billion in mental health services. Access to Work’s mental health support service has been expanded with a two-year trial of targeted support for apprentices with mental health conditions. We have also accepted all the recommendations in the independent review by Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer, including establishing a framework for large employers to voluntarily report on mental health and disability within their organisation.
With regard to the next steps following this judgment, the DWP will write to those who may be entitled to a higher rate of PIP. Where relevant, all payments will be backdated to the effective date in each individual claim.
PIP is a modern, dynamic and fairer benefit than its predecessor, DLA, and focuses the most support on those who are experiencing the greatest barriers to living independently. At the core of PIP’s design is the principle that awards of the benefit should be made according to the claimant’s overall level of need, regardless of whether they suffer from physical or non-physical conditions. The Government are committed to furthering rights and opportunities for all disabled people and we continue to spend over £50 billion a year to support people with disabilities and health conditions.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for attending the House today and welcome her to her recent appointment. It seems that Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions change with astonishing regularity, but the Government’s callous and chaotic attempt to attack the rights of the poor, sick and disabled continues unabated. Although the Secretary of State said that she is pleased to come to the House to make this statement, she did not take the two or three opportunities she had over the past few days to do so, without waiting for an urgent question. Instead, she waited for a month after the High Court decision and then submitted a written statement on a Friday morning, when she knew nobody would be here to read it.
The High Court has ruled yet again that the Government have been acting unlawfully in their incessant attack on the very people the DWP should be seeking to protect. We now know that up to 164,000 people will get higher disability payments—or, to put it another way, that the Government have unlawfully been seeking to withhold benefits from up to 164,000 people who are not only entitled to them but who need them if they are to have anything like the normal life that the more fortunate among us take for granted.
This is not the first time the Government have been overturned in the courts. We have previously seen the courts ruling against the Government on the imposition of benefits sanctions, where the Government were acting unlawfully, and before that on the iniquitous bedroom tax. That one is particularly poignant for my constituents just now because the man who stood up to the DWP over the bedroom tax and won, Davie Nelson, a Glenrothes man through and through, sadly died very suddenly last week. His family and friends will be pleased that others are continuing the campaign for social justice that Davie fought so bravely.
The Secretary of State has promised that her Department will now seek to identify anyone who should be receiving higher benefits. My office has estimated, on the basis of preliminary constituency casework, that there could be 71 people in my constituency alone not getting the money they are entitled to. Will she update us on how many people she now thinks have been underpaid? How long will it take to carry out the review? How much longer will these people have to wait to receive the money that they rely on and which is rightfully and lawfully theirs? Will she explain why her Department is amassing such an appalling record of defeats in the courts? Does that not tell the Government something about how they are making these cuts to benefits? Finally, will she now commit to delivering a social security system whose fundamental principle is not to work down to a budget but to protect and respect the dignity of those who rely on it, and not continue to punish people for having disabilities?
There have been changes in the DWP. Some people have come back, having previously worked here and seen what the changes were, and I am back here, several years later, and hence was probably a good person to say that we would not be appealing the court case.
On the timetable, I made the judgment just a week and a half after being made Secretary of State. It took up most of my time. It was a Friday—and could not have been any other time—because that was the deadline I had to meet for the legal judgment. At the same time, I made sure, following all protocol, that there was a written statement on exactly what had been done.
The benefit was always intended to be a dynamic benefit. Hon. Members on both sides of the House understood that DLA was focused on physical disabilities, and all parties decided there needed to be a more dynamic benefit that reflected invisible disabilities, which we all know are very difficult to assess. The extra money and support went into acknowledging that.
There has been massive change, and also massive understanding, in terms of what is going on. When I stood here all those years ago in 2013 talking about what the budget would be, people said we were cutting it. I explained the matter very clearly, though it fell on deaf ears, and I was often vilified. People still said it was being cut, but it was not. When I arrived, the budget was just over £13 billion, and it has gone up every year since, and will continue to go up. That is in real terms. Much of the vilification, therefore, was not only unnecessary but deeply untrue, and that again is why I welcome the opportunity to come to the Dispatch Box to explain what is going on.
Changing benefits is not always easy. Expanding support is not always easy. We knew at the time we were taking on a very difficult change and that there would no doubt be legal challenges. When there are legal challenges, however, we must look at them, make a true and fair judgment and carry on along that path, and I believe that in this instance I made a fair judgment. Today, the Glasgow Herald welcomed the decision—although I accept that the piece in question picked on various other issues—and it was also welcomed by Paul Farmer, the chief executive of Mind. My hon. Friend the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work has met her Scottish counterpart; they, too, welcome the decision and look forward to establishing closer working relationships and making plans for its implementation.
I hope that what I have said explains what we have done, and I hope that what we have done is welcomed by Members on both sides of the House. If the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) would like to talk to me about a specific case or constituent, my door is open, and I will meet him.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to her post, and I welcome her knowledge in making this decision. In supporting her, I remind the House that it was our predecessor Labour Government who put off changes in disability living allowance deliberately before the election and that afterwards we were faced with the decision to make those necessary changes. More money is now spent on disability benefits year on year, and more people, including those with mental health conditions, will receive them. DLA never delivered that to those people before.
I thank my right hon. Friend. He spent many years working on social issues and cases, and established the Centre for Social Justice. The change that he brought about was not just about changing the benefits, but about reaching out to people who are sometimes left alone. Some of those people did want to be helped to get back into work. They did want to talk about their hopes and aspirations. There are now over 600,000 more disabled people in work, because they chose that path towards self-determination and the fulfilment of their ambitions and hopes.
Thank you for granting the urgent question, Mr Speaker, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant).
Any disabled person who listened to what was said by the Secretary of State will have been gobsmacked by the suggestion that there is a commitment to disabled people. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has described the Government’s action as a “human catastrophe”. The cuts that they have wrought on disabled people are an absolute disgrace.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova) said when she raised a point of order yesterday, the Government sneaked out a written statement late on Friday, announcing that they would not appeal against the High Court judgment of 21 December, in effect reversing the emergency PIP regulations that they had introduced in February last year. Those regulations were introduced without a vote or a debate, despite two urgent questions and an emergency debate, and despite widespread concern about their impact. The Government’s own Social Security Advisory Committee was not consulted. I warned at the time:
“The move to undermine and subvert independent tribunal judgments is unprecedented, and ... marks very troubling behaviour by the Government on cases they lose that could weaken such social security tribunal judgments’ reach, influence and effectiveness in making independent decisions.”—[Official Report, 28 March 2017; Vol. 624, c. 145.]
I am pleased that the Secretary of State and her Department have finally seen sense, but there are a number of questions that the Secretary of State must answer—questions that have already been put by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea. How many people does her Department estimate have been affected? How quickly will her Department be able to identify affected claimants, and by what process? Given the issues relating to letters from that Department, it is a little worrying if that is the only means.
How soon after identification will the Department make back payments? Will there be an appeal process for PIP claimants who are not contacted by the Department and who believe they should receive such payments? Will the Department compensate claimants who have fallen into debt and accrued interest charges? Will applicants be entitled to a reassessment if they were given the standard rate of the PIP mobility component after the February 2017 changes to PIP regulations, when the cause of the claim was “psychological distress”?
Finally, just how much public money has been spent by the Department on lawyers and legal advice seeking to defend the indefensible in the initial tribunal and the more recent court case?
This sorry debacle should serve as a warning to the Government of the dangers of seeking to undermine and subvert the decisions of our independent judiciary and the House of Commons.
Can we start the dialogue on a firm and factual footing, which I set out before, and dispel the myth about the spend on disabled people? The facts speak for themselves: in real terms, the money has gone up. In this place, we are supposed to have the definitive facts of an argument, so I seek to give those here.
This was not about a policy change; it was about implementing the correct regulation after a court case. It came about after taking advice from and working with experts in the field on how to help people with severe psychological disorders. It was about support by prompting and by aid and assistance; at the time, it was not deemed to be something for people with severe learning disabilities, who might want a constant companion. That was how the regulations were set down, after advice was sought on the best approach, because this is a tailor-made benefit. However, the judgment in the case went the other way. We will work with MIND and with charities and stakeholders in the field to implement this as quickly as possible, but it is not just about speed; it has to be right and effective and to work for the people it is made for. That will take some time, but we will do it as quickly as possible.
Up to 220,000 people could be affected. That is why we are taking the process very seriously. We as a Department will reach out to those people, once we know exactly what we are doing. I reiterate that, according to figures from 27 October, 66% of PIP recipients with mental health conditions get the enhanced daily living component, compared with 22% who received the highest DLA care component; and 31% of PIP recipients with mental health conditions get the enhanced mobility rate, compared with just 10% of DLA recipients. Those facts speak for themselves. We know that this is a highly emotive issue, but it would be helpful if all MPs when working with their constituents offered them the help and guidance they need, and not ramp up some of the rhetoric and incorrect information we have heard here.
Finally, I was asked about legal costs. The cost in these cases was £181,000, but a Department as big as the DWP expects the costs of court cases to be that high, and they are comparable with those of other Departments engaged in similar judicial review cases.
I am so pleased the new Secretary of State has decided to accept the court ruling, and I thank her very much indeed. As I and colleagues said last year, we should have listened to the message the courts were giving us. Accepting their ruling will be a significant step forward in achieving parity of esteem for mental and physical health. The Select Committee on Work and Pensions, of which I am a member, is about to publish a report on PIP and employment and support allowance. Will the Secretary of State seriously consider our recommendations on how to improve both those benefits? We all want the same thing—the best possible support for people who need it.
I thank my hon. Friend, who is a vocal champion of people with disabilities, as is every other Conservative Back Bencher—and Members in all parts of the House. That is why this is sometimes such an emotive issue—everybody wants to be heard. I will indeed listen to her and take on board the recommendations of the Select Committee.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this important urgent question. I congratulate my hon. and assiduous Friend the Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) on securing it.
The High Court ruled that the UK Government’s PIP regulations were “blatantly discriminatory” against people with mental health impairments. That follows the damning report from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which found “systematic violations” of disability rights. Although I welcome the Secretary of State’s acceptance of the High Court ruling—a position I hope the Government will adopt more regularly in response to High Court defeats on social security policy—I was worried by an aspect of her written statement, which was sneaked out on Friday. She said on Friday and again today that
“Although I and my Department accept the High Court’s judgment, we do not agree with some of the detail contained therein.”—[Official Report, 19 January 2018; Vol. 634, c. 30WS.]
Will she clarify that she will implement the ruling in full? Will she make an oral statement on the Floor of the House, so that we can consider whether the response follows the High Court ruling? Will she answer the pertinent questions put by my hon. Friend regarding the timescales—a matter she has not covered? Finally, in the light of the ruling and other external interventions, will the Government admit that their policies are causing harm and commit to widescale review of the social security system in the United Kingdom?
We will implement the judgment in full, but we will work with stakeholders and charities to understand and implement what was said. When we said we did not agree with the detail, it was a reference to the language and terminology that went above and beyond a legal ruling and judgment, but we saw through that to the facts and that is why we decided not to appeal.
I reiterate that I am not the kind of person who sneaks anything out. I have come to this House and answered every question. I set out the timetable. The matter had to go to the Court for a decision on Friday. The House was not sitting by the time I made the decision, so I put out a written statement. I hope that all hon. Members understand that it is better to get a decision right than to rush just to answer in a different way. Nothing was sneaked out.
Again, I reiterate the support the Government give and have said they will give to people with mental health conditions. The Prime Minister has made that a key issue that she wants to deal with, and she and I came to that decision to do so.
I strongly welcome the Secretary of State’s decision, which will benefit a lot of disabled people. We all know that DLA was a far worse benefit for people with mental health problems than PIP. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, even before the ruling, far more disabled people were receiving PIP than had ever received DLA?
Absolutely. I thank my hon. Friend, who knows a great deal about this subject and is also a member of the Work and Pensions Committee. He has given the correct facts. We as a compassionate Conservative Government will do as much as we can to help people who need our help.
I welcome the right hon. Lady to her place and I welcome her statement. Given the size of the task before her, with up to 220,000 people affected, may I again press her to give some sort of timetable for meeting that objective? Might she start by writing to the oldest claimants first, and might she put a monthly report in the House of Commons Library on progress to that end?
The right hon. Gentleman is another champion for these causes. As he suggests, this is a mammoth task, and I will be working with experts in the field and doing things as sympathetically and effectively as possible. I will listen to all the advice that he has offered me.
And can we have a monthly statement?
I will do the best I can to adhere to the right hon. Gentleman’s requests.
I very much support the Secretary of State’s decision, and I am sure that she is delighted that the Opposition parties called for an urgent question so that they could tell her how much they support her decision on the court case. Or at least I think that is what they were saying. I also very much welcome the fact that we are now spending far more money on people with disabilities than the last Labour Government did, which probably explains the anger with which the shadow Secretary of State gave her performance. Will my right hon. Friend look at measures to try to get the decision making on PIP right first time? In too many cases, the right decision is not made the first time, and I hope that she will look at that urgently, and early in her time in office.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for his comments. He always likes to see things in his own inimitable way, and he is quite right. Both sides of the House are meant to be supporting this decision, but listening to the tone and the noises coming from the Opposition Benches, it is difficult to believe that. He makes a fair point about getting the decisions right first time and helping the decision makers to get it right. There was an independent review—the Gray review—and we will be taking its advice on board.
I, too, welcome the right hon. Lady to her post. I also welcome the decision that she has made. Bearing in mind the fact that many disability benefit claimants with mental health issues struggle to get out of the house, does she share my concern and that of the Work and Pensions Committee about the great discrepancies between contractors and between regions? There are discrepancies relating to the number of people being allowed a home visit for their benefits assessments. Will she please review this, to ensure that those people can get the benefits they deserve and not be sanctioned because they cannot leave their house?
The hon. Lady has raised a good point about how some people are visited while others have to go in for assessment and support. That was part of the freedoms of contracting, so that we could get best practice. Were some people better seen at home? Were other people better seen in their local community? We constantly gauge and value that, and we will continue to do so.
Building on this very positive announcement, we all need to do more to support people with mental health conditions, and one of the biggest challenges is identifying people with those conditions. The PIP process can play a crucial role in that. Will the Secretary of State therefore bring forward plans to enable us to signpost those identified for the additional targeted support that is available across all parts of the Government, so that they can get the maximum amount of help?
That is another good offer of support and advice from our side of the House from someone who knows his brief very well. We will look at the suggestion that my hon. Friend has put forward.
How many staff in the Department for Work and Pensions will be directly deployed on the rectification process? I ask because the evidence is that the number of staff in the DWP used to complete any kind of task involving a complaint or a rectification is directly relevant to how long it takes them to complete the process.
Again, we have to consider these key practical points. We are actively recruiting hundreds of staff for this at the moment.
As for the comments from the United Nations, how do the figures that my right hon. Friend has given compare internationally?
My right hon. Friend raises another good point. The UK is one of the most generous countries in the world when it comes to supporting its disabled people. In the G7, only Germany spends more. We spend what is deemed appropriate and available, which is more than £50 billion. I reiterate that we are one of the most generous countries in the world.
Vulnerable people with severe mental health problems in my constituency have had to resort to a distressing appeals process in order to secure the support they are entitled to. This is wholly inappropriate. Pursuant to the answer that the Secretary of State gave to the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), may I ask when we can expect to see some progress from her Department to ensure that individuals are assessed for psychological conditions by mental health clinicians in the first instance?
We are constantly reviewing the numbers to support who is coming forward if we need further decisions or clarifications for people. That is part of the ongoing day-to-day process to make sure that we get this benefit right.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to her place. We are all right behind her, whatever some people might say. From my experience as an MP in South Dorset, I suspect that the main problem relating to people slipping through the net is the lack of home visits. I agree with the hon. Member for High Peak (Ruth George) on this point. I suspect that such visits are more expensive, but I think that they would save money in the longer term because the assessment would be more accurate. Will my right hon. Friend look into this, to ensure that we hit the targets smack on, first time?
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words and support. Anyone in need of a home visit can have a home visit, and I will be looking at the communications relating to this, because perhaps people, including MPs, do not know that. This is something else that we need to work on.
We on the DWP Select Committee heard some alarming evidence and unconvincing answers from contractors about the number of staff who had specialist knowledge of mental health. Can the Secretary of State confirm that she will take this up with the contractors and carry out a review of the assessment process?
I have indeed got a date in the diary to be on a PIP decision-making process. I met the contractors last week. I had obviously done that when I was last in the House, but I need to be updated to see exactly what is going on. I have had meetings on this, but the hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that there is nothing quite like going through the process myself.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for her statement. I recently visited my local jobcentre in Stockport and met the great work coaches there who are doing so much to help people back into work. Will she join me in congratulating them, and perhaps explain how this is going to help us in our quest to help a further 1 million people into work?
My hon. Friend and neighbour rightly acknowledges the work that the work coaches do in her constituency and right across the country. The aim of the Government in carrying out this transformation was to get a tailor-made benefit service, whether through PIP or universal credit, so that the work coaches know who they are dealing with and therefore how they can help and support them in the best possible ways. The Government should be proud of what they are aiming to do.
This was an ill-advised attempt to reduce the amount of benefit payable to people with mental health problems, and I am glad that it has been abandoned. Will the Secretary of State take steps to ensure that, in future, her Department complies with its obligations under the Equality Act 2010?
The right hon. Gentleman is very knowledgeable on this subject, and we spent hours debating these issues across the Dispatch Box when I was last in the House. He knows as well as I do that we always aim to fulfil all obligations. If we do not, this is what happens: we get a court case and we have to deal with the consequences. I hope that I have dealt with them correctly today and received support across the House. I will not be seeking leave to appeal, and that is right on this occasion.
I, too, warmly welcome the Secretary of State to her post. I am visiting my local jobcentre in Poole on Friday, so will the Secretary of State set out how our new jobcentres will support my constituents and others across the country with mental health challenges into work?
As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson), this is about tailor-made and flexible support. We are putting in place more training so that people understand mental health conditions, and we are giving our work coaches and mental health assistants as much support as possible. As I say, this is about tailor-made and flexible support.
The Secretary of State talks about the unnecessary vilification of her policies, but her Government were responsible for the vilification of so many mentally disabled people by presenting them as applying for benefits to which they were not entitled. I have seen the misery that such decisions caused many of my constituents, including those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of sexual abuse. Will the Secretary of State now confirm the maximum amount of time that they will have to wait to have their cases reviewed?
It is unfortunate when Opposition Members try to ratchet up the level of emotion in the Chamber, especially when the situation is as emotional as it is. Nobody has ever sought to vilify anyone, and we should get it on the record now that this is not about vilifying anybody—it is about the giving the right support to those who need it. Surely all of us want to focus resources and money on the most disabled people and on the disabled people who need that money. I hope that I can end on that note. The facts speak for themselves: we have spent more than Labour ever did.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s decision. Does she agree that it is simply nonsense to suggest that the Government are not interested in this agenda? More money is going into the programme than ever. The life chances agenda, which has significantly challenged the welfare state that previously kept a lot of people out of work, is fundamentally changing our country, including communities such as Plymouth, for the better.
My hon. Friend hits on an important point. The Conservative party and the law that it is bringing in are all about life chances. That is how we view the world. Social mobility, life chances, a foot on the ladder and a career ladder are what we aim to provide all the time.
This will sound like a bit of an advert, but I want to highlight the fact that the Minister for Disabled People holds PIP sessions that all MPs can attend. If anybody has anything that they want to bring to her, they can go to one of those sessions. The sessions take place regularly, and she is holding one today.
What we are hearing about today is a court judgment that found the Government’s policy wanting, but the Secretary of State has come to the House seeking plaudits for now not appealing that decision, and that is frankly unacceptable. While it is right for those who were not given the help and support that they needed to get a backdated payment, that payment does not remedy the trauma that they faced during the years when they did not have support. Will the Secretary of State offer an unequivocal apology from the Dispatch Box for the consequences of her Department’s policy? Whether intended or not, it was her Government’s decision that led to people struggling at home, and that is simply not right.
That was another reason for making a written statement, as well as the time constraints and what we had to do to adhere to the legal ruling. I have not come here today for plaudits. I have come here to do what is right and to explain what is right. That is what I have done, and that is the key thing for all our constituents and the people who are watching this closely at home. We have made a decision. I believe that it has been accepted on both sides of the House, and we are going to get things right.
I warmly welcome this decision, and it is worth noting that this new Secretary of State made it after only eight working days in her role, which represents a decisive course of action. Is it not the case that the entire focus of the Department, which I know well, is on ensuring that those with mental disabilities and challenges have opportunities to access the workplace and lead independent lives? In making this decision, the Secretary of State has shown that that is her focus.
My hon. Friend puts his point so eloquently that I do not think that I can add much to it, but I reiterate that this is about opportunity and allowing everyone to lead an independent life.
I thank the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) for securing this urgent question, but I also thank the Secretary of State for her response and promise of action. In my office, transfers from DLA to PIP occupy a large proportion of my staff’s time. For people with severe anxiety, depression and emotional and mental health issues, some of whom are suicidal, the system has pushed them to the very edge, even when there has been copious evidence and information from consultants, GPs and family members. I ask that the staff who process applications do so with more knowledge, more understanding and certainly more compassion.
I said that the Minister for Disabled People holds meetings for MPs, but she does the same for caseworkers, so MPs’ staff can attend those sessions, meet the Minister and ask relevant questions.
The shadow Secretary of State said that she was gobsmacked by my right hon. Friend’s response. I am gobsmacked by the vilification of my right hon. Friend on social media and by the threats from Opposition Members to string her up, which are more unacceptable. Just for clarification, will she let the House know precisely by how much disability payments have risen since this Government came to power?
I am glad that “gobsmacked” has become part of the language of the House. My hon. Friend is gobsmacked, but I was obviously greatly dismayed by the comments from the Opposition and by the personal attacks that I have suffered. However, I know that people make personal attacks only when they do not have workable policies to put forward, so that shows that the Opposition have no workable policies. We do not need to link politics with violence.
In answer to my hon. Friend’s question, the increase has been £4.2 billion.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing this urgent question, and I also thank the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) for requesting it. The Government have decided not to appeal only now, after putting many claimants with mental health problems through a year of hell. Does the Secretary of State really believe that that was a kind or fair way of treating people with mental health issues?
This is a key issue for the Government. The Prime Minister has made supporting people with mental health issues a key pledge, and we have put in an extra £11 billion. Coming to the House with this decision is a step in the right direction towards helping people as best we can.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s appointment, and my constituents, including those who come to my weekly advice surgeries, will welcome her announcement. Will she update the House on what steps are being taken to disseminate information about what all this means to local advice services so that they can best advise their clients about the next steps and the way forward?
I thank my hon. Friend, because the point really is about the practicalities of getting this right. It is about engaging with stakeholders and charities. It is about working with our Department to get this right. Mind has welcomed the decision, as have other charities, and it is working with us. Once we have worked through that, obviously we will disseminate it through the whole system.
The Secretary of State says that the Department will now be identifying the 164,000 disabled people who were wrongly denied the help to which they are entitled. Her Department also recently announced it is scrapping a target it previously denied existed—that of upholding 80% of initial decisions. When will the DWP be contacting the 83,000 disabled people who were potentially wrongly denied help under that equally dodgy practice?
We will do everything systematically and coherently. We will get to people affected by any incorrect decision as soon as possible.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to her post and congratulate her on her response to the urgent question. My constituents in Kettering would like to know whether there are more or fewer disabled people in work in 2018 than in 2010.
There are considerably more people with disabilities in work than ever before, and particularly more than in 2010. That is true not just for people with disabilities but for all sorts of people, including young people and women. This Government have fundamentally achieved what we set out to do on life chances, social mobility and opportunities.
I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I welcome both the judgment and the response. However, this process has been extremely stressful for my constituents, many of whom have been plunged into poverty and absolute despair, with their mental health problems exacerbated along the way. What will the Secretary of State do to ensure that cognisance is taken of the opinion of professionals such as psychiatrists, who know what people are capable of doing and what support they need? How will she ensure that any further process does not add additional stress to those who have already been affected?
As I have said in reply to many questions, we are actively recruiting more people, and we are doing more training on mental health conditions with our caseworkers. We have to make sure that we understand the judgment and that we work with partners to make sure that we can help people who come forward. I have heard the hon. Lady and, again, I would be happy to meet her if she would like to speak to me about anyone in particular.
It must be through gritted teeth that the Opposition have to rely on citing the views on human rights of Saudi Arabian, Russian and Chinese members of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Meanwhile, Conservative Members do not want bluster; they want action and support. Will my right hon. Friend confirm the proportion of PIP recipients with mental health conditions who receive the higher rate of benefit compared with the figure under the DLA regime it replaced?
I reiterate that 66% of PIP recipients with mental health conditions got the enhanced rate of the daily living component in October 2017, compared with 22% who were on the highest rate of the DLA care component in May 2013. Some 31% of PIP recipients with mental health conditions got the enhanced rate of the mobility component in October 2017, compared with 10% who received the higher rate of the DLA mobility component in May 2013. I hope that that is clear.
Two hundred sufferers of motor neurone disease have been interviewed by the Department in the past 18 months alone. In addition to their physical disability, many will have mental ill health, which is increased by the stress and anxiety of the interviews. Some MND sufferers die within a year of diagnosis. Will the Secretary of State prioritise this group of sufferers when reviewing those cases?
We will absolutely go via the people who are most in need.
I call Julian Knight.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I had a one-in-two chance.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to her place and welcome her talk of engagement. Will she commit to providing specific guidance to MPs’ offices and council contact centres at the earliest possible opportunity?
That is another good point about how people are going to know about the changes. We will indeed take that suggestion forward.
Many disabled people in the highlands, particularly those with mental health conditions, are often refused PIP appeals, despite overwhelming evidence from their doctors. Does the Secretary of State agree it is wrong and discriminary—[Interruption.] Does she agree it is wrong—[Laughter]—to accept a private company’s decision over that of highly trained medical professionals who know their patients, and their conditions, well?
I will keep to the word “discriminate”, and obviously we do not want to do that. Ultimately we will be making the decisions, but it is imperative that we get them right.
I call Jeremy Quin.
And finally, Mr Speaker.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that PIP claimants, including those who will benefit from her decision, which I warmly welcome, will not be subject to the benefit cap in respect of these payments, and that payments will continue to be untaxed and, indeed, will rise by the rate of inflation?
My hon. Friend is right that PIP is not subject to the benefit cap. A person will get PIP irrespective of whether they are in work. PIP is also not means-tested.