Are people with mental health conditions now receiving higher disability benefit payments?

4 July 2017
What was claimed

More people are eligible for support under PIP than DLA.

Our verdict

It’s unlikely. PIP was designed so that fewer people would be eligible than would be the case under DLA. A quarter of people claiming DLA for mental health conditions did not qualify for PIP when reassessed.

What was claimed

Two thirds of people with mental health conditions claiming PIP receive the higher daily living allowance compared to less than a quarter under DLA.

Our verdict

The figures are correct, 66% compared to 22%, but fewer people are claiming PIP, and only 39% of those who have moved from DLA to PIP have been awarded more money than they were receiving under DLA.

“If you look at the figures two thirds of people with mental health conditions who are in receipt of, who are claiming Personal Independence Payments and are in receipt of that, two thirds of them actually get awarded the higher daily living rate allowance. That two thirds compares to less than a quarter under the previous DLA arrangements.”

Theresa May, 1 March 2017

“one of the effects of the transition from DLA to PIP is that more people are now eligible for support—particularly those, as it happens, with mental health problems”

Damian Green, 12 July 2017

Fewer people are successfully claiming the disability benefit PIP than were claiming its predecessor DLA.

People claiming disability benefits mainly because of mental health conditions are now more likely to be receiving the higher rate. But that doesn’t mean that those claiming these benefits are all better off.

PIP was intended to apply to 20% fewer people than DLA when it was introduced. More people have been awarded PIP than expected, but the Office of Budget Responsibility still predicts it has saved 5% in government spending.

Comparisons between the older and newer benefits are tricky because PIP is still being rolled out and the eligibility criteria have changed.

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More people on PIP receive the higher rate of living allowance than those on DLA

The main non-means tested disability benefit is in the process of changing from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Both benefits have two main parts: one to help with daily living and one to help with mobility. The criteria for claiming each benefit is different, but people can be eligible for either or both parts, and can get different levels of payment depending on their assessed level of need.

Theresa May is talking about the daily living component of PIP and comparing this to the equivalent part of DLA.

The highest payment available for help with daily living is £82.30 for both DLA and PIP.

The categories of ‘main disabling condition’ are different between the two benefits, so it can be difficult to directly compare them. For example, the DLA data includes a category for ‘psychoneurosis’, while PIP data separates out anxiety disorders, mood disorders and mixed anxiety and depressive disorders. The data tells us only about the ‘main’ reason someone has for claiming the benefit. Some people have multiple physical and mental conditions but only one is recorded.

The criteria for claiming the benefit has also changed.

We can say that 66% of those claiming PIP mainly for mental health conditions received the higher payment in the most recent data from April 2017. Only 22% of DLA claimants for mental health conditions in May 2013 (when PIP was introduced) received this higher payment.

Fewer people are claiming PIP than DLA as the new benefit is still being rolled out. The share of people receiving the higher rate may change as more people move from DLA to PIP. 741,000 people with a mental health condition were claiming DLA in May 2013, and just under two thirds of that number–476,000–were claiming PIP for a mental health condition in April 2017.

However people who have been moved from DLA to PIP are more likely to be awarded the higher rate than new claimants. We compared working age people claiming DLA to those claiming PIP as that is the condition for receiving the newer benefit.

Fewer than half of those who have moved from DLA to PIP have been given more money than they were receiving under DLA

The government originally assumed introducing a new assessment would reduce the number of people claiming DLA by 20%. PIP has been introduced more slowly than planned, and the number of people being awarded the higher rates of the benefit has been higher than predicted.

Spending on PIP will be 5% lower by 2017/18 compared to DLA continuing, according to the Office of Budget Responsibility.

On average 73% of all people moving from DLA and 41% of new people claiming were awarded PIP from April 2016-2017. This suggests that fewer people are eligible for PIP.

We have older detailed statistics on how people moving from DLA to PIP have been assessed, but they combine the daily living and mobility payments.

What we can say is that 193,000 people with mental health conditions were re-assessed between October 2013 and October 2016. 39% were awarded more money, 14% given the same amount, 22% were awarded less money and 25% no longer received the benefit.

So while more people on the PIP payments may be receiving the higher living allowance, this doesn’t necessarily mean claimants with mental health conditions are receiving more money in total under the new form of payment.

And the move from DLA to PIP has removed the lower level of living allowance

Moving from DLA to PIP removed the lowest care bracket (£21.80). The Government says that PIP “is designed to focus more support on those who are likely to have a higher level of need, and higher costs associated with their disability”.

24% of all people receiving the lower rate for care under DLA did not qualify for PIP at the assessment stage. 4% were awarded the mobility part of the benefit but not the daily living part.

It’s difficult to compare DLA and PIP because they have different criteria for receiving the higher rate of living allowance

To receive the higher rate for care under DLA a person had to show they needed:

  • Frequent attention with bodily functions throughout the day; or continual supervision throughout the day to avoid substantial danger to themselves or others


  • Prolonged or repeated attention at night in connection with bodily functions; or someone to be awake during the night for a prolonged period or at frequent intervals in order to avoid substantial danger to themselves or others.

They had to have needed help for at least three months and expect to need it for another six months.

To receive the ‘enhanced daily living allowance’ under the new benefit, PIP, a person has to score 12 points from a list of ten areas of daily activities.

For example, someone with a mental health condition might need:

  • supervision or assistance to either prepare or cook a simple meal. (4 points)
  • prompting or assistance to be able to make complex budgeting decisions. (2 points)
  • supervision, prompting or assistance to be able to manage medication or monitor a health condition. (1 point)


  • to show they cannot engage with other people due to such engagement causing either –

(i) overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant; or

(ii) the claimant to exhibit behaviour which would result in a substantial risk of harm to the claimant or another person. (8 points)

They must have had these difficulties for three months and expect them to last for at least nine months.

Update 1 August 2017

We've updated this article to cover a newer claim by Damian Green and to clarify that the available data only tells us about the main reason why people are claiming the benefits. Some people have multiple physical and mental conditions but only one is recorded.

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