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24 April, 2020 Open access

Number of new PIP claimants has reduced by more than 50 per cent since the coronavirus outbreak took hold

DWP Minister says 'we're not totally sure why', but advises that Department is making changes to accommodate third party support

The number of new personal independence payment (PIP) claimants has reduced by more than 50 per cent since the coronavirus outbreak took hold.

In an evidence session held yesterday with DWP Ministers and senior officials to explore the Department's response to the outbreak, the Work and Pensions Select Committee heard from Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson who said -

'We are not totally sure why. But, in January [there were] 51,000 new claimants in the month [and] at the beginning of March it was around about 12,000 a week [and] that’s now down to 5,000 a week as of last week ... We’re trying to be as sympathetic and helpful as we can. That was what drove the decision to do the automatic extension to take out the volume so we could then prioritise what is important, to keep the gateway open for those who are terminally ill, and new claimants, and those whose conditions change so that those who need access to that additional financial support through the disability benefits can do so.'

In addition, questioned about whether he is concerned that the move to paper-based reviews may disproportionately affect vulnerable claimants - as this group are more likely to need face-to-face meetings and/or third party support to help them gather evidence and make their claim - Mr Tomlinson said - 

‘I am doing a lot of engagement with the major stakeholders, in getting them to go back to talk to their members to find out what are the reasons behind why we have dropped by half. What we might see is that it might pick up again soon. We’re very alive to that.

We have also made other changes to be able to accommodate that trusted third party support. So if you are having a telephone assessment we are allowing your friend, family, trusted partner to be part of that process which is something that a few years ago we introduced to the face-to-face assessment which made a huge difference to the quality of the outcome of the assessments.’

Yesterday's Work and Pensions Committee evidence session can be viewed at parliamentlive.tv