Our open letter to the Work and Pensions Secretary, May 2024

1st May 2024

Dear Mel Stride,

Re. Proposed reforms to Personal Independence Payments

I am writing to you as Chair of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA UK), a charity supporting people with the life-limiting disease pulmonary hypertension (PH).

On behalf of those affected by this devastating condition, I’d like to formally express our dismay at the proposals set out in your government’s Modernising Support Green Paper.

Due to the unpredictable nature and high symptom burden of PH, many people with this condition find it impossible to work, and therefore rely on benefits including Personal Independence Payments (PIP). Claiming benefits is very much a last resort for them.

Your rationale for these reforms is rising costs because of increasing numbers of people claiming PIP due to anxiety and depression.

Applying for PIP in the first place is incredibly challenging, and as well as having to cope with disabling physical symptoms, 53% of people with PH also live with anxiety and / or depression*.

Hearing about these proposed changes is heaping huge amounts of unnecessary worry onto their already heavily burdened shoulders.

The language and rhetoric used, ahead of your impending general election campaign, also risks societal resentment towards disabled people – and this has not gone unnoticed.

The rise in numbers of people claiming PIP with anxiety and depression is not down to work-shy individuals seeking an ‘easy ride’. It is down to a woeful lack of investment in mental health services, and it is shameful of your government to suggest otherwise.

I wish to make it abundantly clear that Personal Independence Payments are an investment rather than a burden. They are an investment in helping the most vulnerable in our society to retain their independence and dignity – and making it harder for them to access this essential support would be misguided, unfair, and downright cruel.

The UK’s pulmonary hypertension community calls on you and your government to reconsider these insulting proposals that aim to lay blame at the door of vulnerable individuals. Instead, we ask you to accept responsibility for your own failings that have resulted in your rapidly rising benefits bill.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Iain Armstrong PhD FRCN

Chair of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA UK) and Consultant Nurse in Pulmonary Vascular Disease

*The true emotional impact of PH, PHA UK, 2019