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Disabled People: Protection

Volume 676: debated on Monday 11 May 2020

What steps her Department is taking to support and protect disabled people during the covid-19 outbreak. (902418)

To provide greater financial security at this time, we have automatically extended by six months PIP—personal independent payment—awards for existing claimants that are due to be reviewed or reassessed and have suspended all face-to-face assessments of disability benefits for three months.

Disabled people are facing increased costs for food, medicine and personal protective equipment for carers, yet there has been no uplift in legacy benefits to match the £20 increase to universal credit and working tax credits. What steps is the Department taking to rectify this? I am aware that issues with the system have made this difficult to deliver at speed, but what is the Department doing to ensure that some of the most vulnerable members of our society are not left out of pocket during this crisis?

On behalf of the ministerial team, I would like to welcome the new shadow ministerial team. I look forward to working constructively with them.

In addition to the more than £1,000 increase to the universal credit standard rate, we have seen the annual benefit uprating of 1.7% across all our benefits. With disability benefits in particular, we have continued to make sure the gateway remains open, that claimants can have their assessments reviewed and that those with a terminal illness are being fast-tracked. We are doing all we can to get support to the most vulnerable people as quickly as possible.

Can the Minister give further guidance specifically on PIPs? I have been contacted by several constituents who are either looking to access them for the first time or due a reassessment. With face-to-face assessments understandably suspended due to the pandemic, will the Minister confirm what action the Department is taking to ensure that my constituents can access this vital support as quickly as possible?

My hon. Friend is diligent in championing the issues that his constituents face. We have rightly continued to accept new claims; we are allowing reviews where claimants accept them, particularly where their condition may have deteriorated and they could be eligible for greater financial support; and we are prioritising terminally ill claimants. I know that that work has been very warmly welcomed by stakeholders.