Despite fight by Lib Dems, government changes today deny up to 160,000 people suffering from mental health disabilities access to Personal Independence Mobility Component

As we reported less than a month ago, Liberal Democtrats in the Parliament have been fighting the government’s decision to deny disability benefits to 160,000 vulnerable people. The government have refused to listen and the new regulations came into force today.

Stephen Fry tweeted:

He links to this message from Mind, the mental health charity:

PIP is awarded to cover the extra costs that disabled people face. In December, courts ruled that people who find it difficult to leave the house because of anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental health problems should be able to receive the highest rate of PIP.

The Government now wants to stop the court’s judgement from coming into effect, meaning thousands of people who experience psychological distress when planning or following journeys will only eligible for the lower rate of PIP.

The Government say that they always intended this to be the case, and they are simply changing the law to make this clear. However, we simply disagree. At the time that the coalition Government were passing this law in 2012, we asked them about this specific point:

They said in response:

“Concern was raised that the activity takes insufficient account of the impact of mental health conditions on mobility. We do not consider this the case. Individuals could potentially score in a number of descriptors in the activity if they cannot go outside to commence journeys because of their condition or need prompting or another person to accompany them to make a journey”

Now they’re trying to move the goalposts. If nothing changes, these changes will come in to effect on Thursday 16 March and they can be overturned until Monday 3rd April. This is clearly against the original intention of PIP and runs counter to the commitment the Government made that people with mental health problems would be assessed in the same way as other disabled people.

Email your MP now and by adding your voice to ours, we can show that these damaging and misguided changes to legislation should not happen.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is a councillor and one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.