This pledge falls within the the “Disability Gap” section of the Conservative manifesto, and if you look at the manifesto text you’ll see there are two parts we’re looking at to measure it – “ensure a sustainable welfare system”, and “target help at those who need it most”.
Let’s look at the “sustainable welfare system” part of the pledge first. In this context, we’ve taken sustainability to relate to public finances. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (one of the most common disability benefits, also called PIP) in April 2013 has meant that reassessments of all claimants have had to be made, and they’ve taken longer than anticipated. The OBR have forecast PIP will deliver “smaller-than-expected savings” to the budget and “the average amount paid to each claimant will be higher than initially expected”.
The second part of this pledge is to provide “help targeted at those who need it most”. This relates to means-tested benefits and is something that has long been a part of the UK welfare state; they assess how illness and disability affect the individual, with those most in need receiving the most support, as the pledge suggests.
So far during this government, the Work and Pensions Select Committee has invited evidence about how they determine eligibility for PIP and also Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This will inform both parts of this policy pledge (sustainability and fairness), but until any proposed changes are implemented we can say this work is ‘in progress’.
- An OBR guide to welfare spending – Office of Budget Respronsibility
- Work and Pensions Select Committee PIP and ESA assessments inquiry: supporting statistics – Gov.uk
- PIP and ESA Assessments inquiry – Parliament.uk
- Investigation into errors in Employment and Support Allowance – National Audit Office