The government has compounded its humiliation over a huge climb-down concerning PIP (Personal Independence Payments) to people with mental health issues – by trying to hide it.
Just a week or so into her new job as DWP (Dept of Work and Pensions) Secretary, Esther McVey had to announce that she would be ending the government’s attempts to overturn a court decision that denying or reducing PIP to those who suffer ‘severe psychological distress’ when travelling alone is ‘blatantly discriminatory’.
But she did so in a written statement issued after parliament had finished sitting for the week.
The announcement is a victory for campaigners and Labour but has been ignored by much of the media.
The government says the change will cost almost £4 billion over five years and will benefit around 150,000 more people.
The climb-down is to be welcomed, but the way in which it was announced led Shadow DWP Secretary Debbie Abrahams to condemn the government’s ‘duplicity and disarray’. The government had already changed the law after losing an earlier court battle, to avoid having to carry out that judgment, but has now capitulated to the second one.
Ms McVey’s decision does nothing to absolve her of her responsibility, during her first term with the DWP, for a decision to reduce the distance disabled people have to be capable of walking before they lose their mobility allowance – which cost vast numbers of disabled people the vehicles that prevented them becoming virtually or fully housebound.
Nor does it do anything to lessen her guilt for working with Iain Duncan Smith to implement changes with the goal of taking PIP away from half a million disabled people whether they needed it or not.
How typical of the combined incompetence, cowardice and callousness of this government that it first tried to legitimise its ‘blatant discrimination’ against people with severe mental health challenges – and then tried to obscure the news when it abandoned its legal fight to avoid doing the right thing.
Congratulations to the people who will benefit and to those who campaigned for them – and shame yet again on the venal, heartless and incompetent Tories.
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