DWP looking at new PIP 'benefit swap' plan as confusion over scheme raised

By David Bentley & Ben Reid

A new 'benefit swap' scheme for PIP claimants is being looked at by the Department for Work and Pensions.

This is amid concerns though that it could make the system even more confusing and complex for those who are on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or trying to access support.

It comes as more than 2.6 million people claim the benefit which was brought in to help with some of the extra costs for those who have a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability.

The scheme will eventually replace Disability Living Allowance, Birmingham Live reports.

Recipients need to have problems with daily living and mobility to access PIP, which pays out a maximum of £608 a month and can be given in addition to other benefits such as Universal Credit and State Pension.

And claimants can also trade some or all of the Enhanced Rate Mobility Component of their PIP for a Motability car.

The vehicles are also available to those on the Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Higher Rate Mobility Component of Child Disability Payment (Scotland), War Pensioners' Mobility Supplement and Armed Forces Independence Payment.

As part of its Health and Disability Green Paper, the DWP is considering the future of benefits such as PIP, with one suggestion being extending the Motabiliity concept to include other equipment and services.

The green paper says: "The ability to move around and make journeys is a key part of independent living. We currently provide mobility allowances through PIP and DLA. People can choose to spend these allowances however they wish.

"A popular way to spend mobility allowances is through the independent Motability scheme. The Motability scheme, which is operated by the independent Motability charity, helps people meet their mobility and travel needs.

"It allows disabled people and people with health conditions to use their PIP/DLA higher-rate mobility allowance to lease a new affordable car, wheelchair accessible vehicle, scooter or powered wheelchair.

"In 2020, 1.8 million people were receiving the PIP Enhanced mobility or DLA Higher mobility award and were eligible for the Motability Scheme. In that year there were 635,000 customers using the scheme

"The charity which provides the Motability Scheme benefits from a range of tax concessions and the direct transfer of mobility allowances.. This means that they are able to provide leases that are around 44 per cent cheaper than they would be otherwise.. Currently, 34 per cent of eligible people join the Motability Scheme."

And it is now exploring expanding the scheme, explaining: "We could explore improving access to aids, appliances and services by allowing people to voluntarily swap all or part of their benefit payment for these. This could create a more personalised service than when benefits are just paid as financial support."

But it says claimants have given feedback that "swapping a benefit payment for goods or services should always be optional... because a benefit payment lets people choose how to meet their specific needs."

There are further issues with the idea. The DWP says it's possible these additional benefit swaps might become too confusing - but it cautions the idea would only work if large numbers of people take part or it would not be cost-effective.

The green paper says: "There are some key things to consider when deciding whether to move to a system offering practical support. We heard that disabled people can find the system complex and confusing. Offering more options could make the system more complicated, especially where practical support is also offered by local authorities or the NHS.

"It may only be deliverable if a large number of disabled people are interested in similar types of support. If most people continued to opt for a financial payment, we might not be able to provide practical support in a cost-effective way."

A consultation on proposals raised in the green paper is running until October 11, 2021.

The Health and Disability Green Paper consultation survey can be found by clicking here.

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