The Government has pledged to review the claims of everyone receiving Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) – 1.6 million people – after a court ruled they breached the human rights of people with mental health difficulties.
PIP is a benefit that helps with some of the extra costs associated with a long-term health condition or disability. However, last year the government made changes to the criteria, meaning that people with mental health problems found it harder to qualify for payments, compared with physically disabled claimants.
Successful Legal Challenge
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A legal challenge to the new rules in December resulted in a judge quashing the regulations as they breached the Human Rights Act 1998 by discriminating against people with mental health disabilities. The Court found that by implementing such discriminatory changes, the government was acting ‘ultra vires’ – meaning in excess of their legal powers.
The rules also breached Article 14 of the Human Rights Convention (which prohibits discrimination) and Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (which recognises the right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community). The court found that the regulations “were blatantly discriminatory against those with mental health impairments” and could not be justified.
A Review of All Claims
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The Government has now stated that it will not appeal against the court ruling, and will review all PIP claims. Around 220,000 disabled people with mental health problems are expected to benefit from the court ruling and will see their benefits claims accepted and backdated.
The treatment of disabled people in the UK is controversial more broadly though. Last year an independent review of PIP claims found that 65 percent of people whose applications were rejected, had their claim later accepted on appeal.
Medical checks for PIP applicants are also carried out on behalf of the government by private-sector providers Capita, Maximus and ATOS, who have been criticised for the quality of their work.
The Government is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Disabled People’s Rights, which aims to uphold the rights of people with a disability. However, last August a UN inquiry found that the UK was failing to uphold disabled people’s rights across a wide range of areas from education, work, housing, health and social security and stated that changes to PIP “disproportionately affected persons with disabilities and hindered various aspects of their right to live independently and be included in the community.”
Featured Image: Roger Blackwell / Flickr