As the Conservatives plan to slash personal independence payment (PIP) to pay for tax cuts, arguing that far too many people are getting awards for minor illnesses, a think tank has undertaken research to find out the actual causes of the increase in claims for PIP and other disability and incapacity benefits.

250,000 PIP claims in three months

The latest PIP statistics reveal a record number of applications, with a quarter of a million new claims being lodged in the three months to April 2024.  This is an increase of almost half since April 2021. 

The amount spent on disability and incapacity benefits was fairly constant until 2013-14, but in the next ten years spending on working age  incapacity benefits rose by 34% and disability benefits by 89%.  In terms of cost, the bill has risen (in 2024-25 prices), from £28 billion to £43 billion.

PIP is not getting easier to claim

In spite of what tabloid press and government ministers may assert, it is not getting easier to qualify for PIP.  Success rates for new claims have fallen since PIP was introduced in 2013 and award rates for DLA to PIP forced transfers have not altered over time.

Moreover, the DWP considers that the rate of fraud in relation to PIP is so small that it is assessed at 0% in the 2024 “Fraud and error in the benefits system annual report”.

So what has caused the huge rise in claims?

The Resolution Foundation’s 38 page report “Under strain. Investigating trends in working-age disability and incapacity benefits” offers some important answers.

Poorer health

Since 2011, improvements in life expectancy have slowed and have now begun going backwards, suggesting that people are getting less healthy.

And the number of people who report that they have a “long-standing illness, disability or impairment which causes substantial difficulty with day-to-day activities” has risen from 5.9 million to 8.9 million in the last decade.

So, it is likely that as the UK population becomes less healthy – and has to wait longer and longer for treatment – more people are becoming eligible for disability and incapacity benefits

Longer awards

In part because of the DWP’s inability to carry our reviews on time, the length of time people remain on PIP is much longer than was intended when the benefit was introduced, meaning that the caseload has grown larger.

Falling value of other benefits

The value of basic out-of-work benefits has fallen over time. 

A single person claiming JSA was 7.6% worse off in in April 2024 compared to April 2010.  At a time of a serious cost of living crisis, this is a powerful incentive to apply for health related benefits. 

A single person getting UC will see their award more than double if they are also eligible for the health element.  An award of PIP would equally make a dramatic difference to their income.

So people who might not have been prepared to face the unpleasantness of a WCA or PIP assessment in the past may be more willing to do so now.

Rising state pension age

Overall, a growing, ageing population and a rise in the state pension age has led to 25% more people being eligible for incapacity and disability benefits.

But only just over half of the spending on working age disability benefits is due to a higher caseload - the rest is due to award rates being higher.

Removal of the lowest level of support in PIP

DLA has three levels of award for the care component.  When PIP was introduced, the lowest level was done away with in the expectation that this would cut costs.  In reality, it has had the opposite effect:  the average value of awards has gone up. 

In fact, 31% of claimants who had been getting the lowest level of DLA care were awarded the standard level of the PIP daily living component when forcibly transferred.  Remarkably,  30% got the enhanced component.

In other words, whilst the DWP expected most claimants to lose out because of the removal of the lowest rate,  over 60% of claimants are actually better off.

The same thing is happening when young people transfer from Child DLA to PIP, with 63% of claimants receiving a higher award of PIP than they did of DLA.  

Proposed Abolition of the WCA

One issue the Resolution Foundation did not deal with is the proposed abolition of the WCA.

The Conservatives have said they intend to abolish the WCA and make receipt of PIP the basis for being eligible for UC health.  Many claimants believe this may be driving people to apply for PIP now, because they are afraid they will lose their ESA or UC Health if they do not do so.

Increased awareness of PIP qualifying criteria

Another issue the Resolution Foundation did not cover is the effect of social media.

Readers have reported to us a growing number of social media sites which encourage people to claim PIP and explain who can get it and how to apply.  Often the information given is inaccurate or incomplete, but such sites do undoubtedly raise awareness.

In addition, the Disability News Service has highlighted the rise of  “clickbait” news stories about PIP, particularly on local newspaper sites.  Often these ‘follow a familiar pattern, with headlines telling readers “DWP to pay extra £362 a month for one of these 23 conditions”, “DWP says it’ll pay £691 to people with any of 87 common conditions” or “87 common muscle and joint conditions that qualify you for £737 from DWP”’.

Again, the information is often misleading, but it means more people are finding out about PIP.

What do you think?

The Resolution Foundation have carried out a well-researched and carefully supported examination of some of the factors behind the rise in claims for incapacity and disability benefits.

But they are unlikely to have uncovered all the reasons. 

Do you have an opinion on what has caused the rise?  Let us know in the comments section below.


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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Marcia Levy · 2 days ago
    This is disgusting. I receive PIP. I have a serious back condition. I need to make sure I am warm so the money helps with heating. I am sure that my electric provider doesn't accept vouchers and I pay with DD. I do my shopping on line and again I pay through my bank. Also how much is this magazine going to cost the DWP to set up, print and the cost of distribution. Perhaps the idiots who conceived this little plan don't have family members who rely on their PIP. PIP means Personal Independent Payment. Note the word Independent. This money is to help us remain independent and allow us not to otherwise be a major drain on an already failing society and failing governments 
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    ADHD · 2 days ago
    I am applying for PIP. I have never been able to work and I have undiagnosed chronic pain and undiagnosed ADHD. I am on a waiting list to get a diagnosis for potential fibromyalgia however there is more than a 6 month delay to see a rheumatologist, a two year waiting list to get an ADHD diagnosis, and so far, the only way I've been able to get help is by having private treatment then skipping basic needs, like electricity. I've been cut off twice from that because of being unable to pay bills so that can see physical therapists to find out what is wrong with me. After a long time of searching I've discovered that my problems are from my birth. It seems that I was probably damaged from a forceps delivery which has misaligned my pelvis, which has then caused issues with internal organs, although this was not diagnosed through the NHS. It was a private practioner who diagnosed me. And I had to go through around 20 years of therapists to find this out. Getting any acknowledgement of any of my conditions through the NHS so far however has been almost impossible. I have interstitial cystitis also. It was NHS that suggested this could be what I have but I'm unsure whether I have an official diagnosis for that either.  I should not be in this position. Its insane in fact that its been going on this long. I should have been diagnosed at school. Instead I was bullied at school and at some point stopped going altogether. No-one ever helped me to get to the bottom of what was wrong with me, and I'm still struggling at age 45. It is not right but there are too many people in variations of this story.         
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    Lisa · 11 days ago
    I waited a year for my appeal I had it 4 July 2024 I'm shocked to discover after calling the pip line the following day that I have won I now get enhanced for the daily living element and for mobility too. I have an on the phone appeal and was literally grilled by the doctor, seemingly he was trying to catch me out, bit I predicted this and wrote extensive notes concerning everything from medication to moving around in a safe Manor I had felt that during the interview it was going badly, I was asked by the judge at the end if I'd like to add anything to help the appeal process I said yes 
    I said and I quote 
    I have answered all your questions 100% honestly, I'm 53 and am unable to do normal things like play football with my grandson, go on family holidays. Without being a hindrance,  walk !! And live each day without some kind of anxiety. I don't have a good quality of life. And I don't want to be like this, I am grateful to you all for your time today listening to my appeal and thankyou for being patient with me for the questions I didn't firstly understand. 
    I was told we will make our decision and let you know by letter in a few days. I have one question concerning the backdated money element of all this. How far back will it be backdated,? Can anyone tell me please? 
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    Diana · 11 days ago
     I'm sure people are being influenced to claim  because of social media and the  clickbait headlines. I belong to a heart forum and have noticed far far more people recently posting that they expect to be eligible for Pip even when their heart condition doesn't affect their ability to live and work in any way. They have read that having a heart condition automatically  means they have a right to benefits. They don't understand at all how their condition is assessed. Add to that covid, long covid, long delays in NHS treatments and poverty affecting health plus a much  greater emphasis on mental health, it doesn't surprise me at all that applications have increased. However, what percentage of those applications are actually successful? What used to be a stigma associated with claiming   benefits has also gone. People feel "entitled".

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    Clare · 11 days ago
    Many otherwise healthy people are on waiting lists for medical treatment For long periods of time Being on those waiting lists does not make you healthier Let alone those already with health issues
    Nothing has been said about more people renting due to house prices and how that might make a difference to peoples health now and into the future 
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    evaness · 11 days ago

    The Resolution Foundation seems to have ignored the most obvious reason for the sudden increase in PIP claims since 2020 - LONG COVID.

    Covid is most definitely not over - the government, medics, media are deliberately lying to the public. Doctors seem particularly strangely ignorant as they don't seem to read the medical journals or the latest research, of which there is a mountain of high quality peer reviewed research.

    Cases at the time of writing (July '24) are HIGH. Possibly as many as 1 in 40 people currently infected. So it is definitely NOT seasonal as they claim. Nor is it just a cold or flu.

    One in ten people are estimated to get Long Covid after their FIRST infection and this rises with every subsequent infection to possibly over 30% for a third infection.

    Some people gradually recover over several months but many never recover. Long Covid is very similar to M.E. - meaning people suffer from post exertional malaise and cannot perform any task for any length of time without time needed needed to recover, often confined to bed. Children are being infected over and over in schools, many not recovering and many will suffer consequences in the longer term.

    On top of this Corona Virus infection is damaging multiple body systems leading to an increase in type 2 diabetes, heart atacks, strokes, cancer, neurological damage precipitating conditions such as dementia even in young people.

    Even a mild infection can cause a 3 point loss in IQ. A severe infection( ICU) causing a 9 point loss in IQ. which obviously causes cognitive dysfuntion in many people such as difficulty with memory. A lot of people seem to be suffering from behavioural changes too, due to damage to the frontal temporal lobe. Depression and anxiety are also a consequence of Covid infection, not just people feeling a "bit bluesy" because of lockdowns.

    This is a hugely serious problem for the future of the workforce. People have become and still are becoming permanently disabled and therefore unable to work. Blaming people for claiming disability benefits may suit the government and the tabloids but this is not fraud - it is a national and international crisis that is deliberately going unchecked and untold to the public.

    Any government needs to wake up to this urgently and stop allowing the unchecked spread of covid by telling people they will get "herd immunity". This has not happened and nor are the vaccines preventing infection and less and less so with the novel variants of covid. The virus is constantly mutating faster than any vaccine development can keep up. It is learning to become ever more infectious and ever more immune evasive. 50% of infected people do not even know they have covid so pass it on to every one they come in contact with on buses, trains, the supermarket.

    Hospitals have dropped all covid precautions for pateints and staff so that now about 67% of people in hospital with covid, caught it IN THE HOSPITAL. This must stop.

    Parliaments around the world, including ours, have protected themselves on the quiet by updating their HVAC systems with  multiple fresh air changes per hours and UV germicidal irradiation and HEPA filters. The rest of us are just told to go to work with covid or with colleagues who have covid. It is insanity. The covid tests available in the shops now give false negatives over 50% of the time and especially in the first few days of infection. They have not been updated to catch the novel variants.

    People keep saying they have a "cold" "the flu" (yes in July) and covid is never mentioned anymore. Having had an infection depletes the immune system making people much more vulnerable to then catch other viruses/bacteria going around, like measles, RSV, TB etc. So many people are reporting on places like facebook that they or their children are constantly ill, catching one thing after another and not understanding why. Covid is why.

    Protect yourself by wearing a proper mask - an FFP2 or FFP3 "respirator" - indoors or crowded public places. These are safe to wear and 95% to 100% effective if worn correctly. Ignore the media and social media that says masks don't work. The baggy blue ones or cloth masks don't do much but a proper mask will protect you from infection and all the down the line consequences which the media and governments are deliberately not telling people about because - the economy.

    The obvious problem with this is that in a few years so many people will be disabled there will be no economy to speak of as the workforce will have been decimated.

    I used to be a journalist. I read the research and the scientists working in this field. I know governments are lying or ignorant or both. I am disabled by M.E. and I wouldn't wish it on anyone - so protect yourselves - no one else is going to and demand safe indoor air quality is protected in hospitals, GP surgeries, dentists and public spaces. It can be done.

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    FernH · 12 days ago
    I have chrome on my phone and there are frequently articles on how people can claim for conditions but there is no mention that it is a very hard benefit to get. Every day, there is a new story about how having a certain condition means that you are eligible for PIP. These items make it seem that you can apply and you will get it. No mention of the work involved in filling out the forms, the refusal, the mandatory reconsideration, the whole process being quite a long one, etc. 
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    M.Fox · 14 days ago
    Industrial injury can u claim anything else 
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    Hannah · 14 days ago
    There are a few people on YouTube giving advice on claiming benefits, all with varying degrees of information. One of these advisors has said that the reason he feels PIP applications have risen so massively is because, last year on television there were interviews on a current affairs program that hi-lighted a possibly that should the conservatives gain power at the upcoming election they would push forwards with plans to cut benefits, one of the things they proposed was not allowing universal credit claimants with disability extra money unless they had been in receipt of PIP for at least 6 months, and that would be a way of cutting the needs for so many assessments and by doing this it would streamline the whole disability benefits process, so could all those people be claiming PIP to ensure they don’t lose money they are already receiving? 
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    Jen · 14 days ago
    I also think that longer NHS waiting lists has had a big impact. The lack of investment in healthcare, social care, local communities and council services all feeds into this problem too but basically it’s much easier to blame sick disabled and vulnerable people than to look at the reasons why why things are frankly not working. Also when compared to the rest of Europe our economy, healthcare and standards of living have not recovered to comparable standards from pre pandemic, which is in direct contrast. Our country isn’t broken the leadership is. 
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    David Macfie · 14 days ago
    Exactly Koko... Long COVID is taking a toll on the vulnerable... Even those that don't have a known vulnerability! Any imperfections are amplified, especially cardio vascular... So I fear this trend will continue at a level around, or a little below, present levels!
    Speaking as a Laryngectomy possessor, with asthma, I was protected, but get pip, under appeal, because of my problems... There's always going to be the especially vulnerable, but I don't think Long COVID will make the pip list under any government.
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    cheggs · 14 days ago
    LOVE vouchers. in fact, thats how im going to pay taxes after the switch.
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    Azalea · 14 days ago
    This is a well thought out analysis, but, as almost everywhere else, it ignores the ongoing pandemic. Covid-19 causes vascular, immunological and neurological damage. Half of cases of Long Covid meet the diagnostic criteria for ME, a debilitating condition for which there is no treatment due to decades of neglect. At present there are no mitigations and hardly anyone qualifies for a vaccine.
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    Koko · 14 days ago
    Long Covid.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Peter · 14 days ago
    There are adverts for PIP awards you might possibly claim all over the web, newspapers etc.
    Thus encouraging more people to claim, especially as so many of us have been forced into poverty by the tories and the DWP
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    Maggie · 14 days ago
    Finding it very frightening  my poor mum is petrified of changes   65  under mental health nurses for years  prolapse bladder   arthritis and spondylitis through her spine  and a self harming is bad  lives alone but needs a lot off help with everything    sent review form back 4 months ago but not a word about it  this is terrible 
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    Alison · 14 days ago
    The long term health issues associated with Covid infection have to be a major factor surely? Around 2 million in the UK have Long Covid. Covid infection, however mild, also increases the risk of hidden organ damage, brain damage, immune system damage, heart attack, stroke, blood clots, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, possibly cancer… the list is endless. 

    Research show the risks are cumulative, so the more infections people have had, the higher their risk of long term health issues and the more likely they are to need to claim disability benefits. 

    If the government want to reduce the benefits bill they need to start taking measures to reduce Covid transmission. Airborne infection control in healthcare settings and clean air in schools would be a good start. Air quality standards for all shared indoor public spaces. Good public health messaging that is accurate about the ongoing risks of Covid rather than pretending it’s just a cold. 
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      CCG3 · 13 days ago
      @Alison Absolutely - the Tory message that ‘Covid is over’ is a big, fat lie! Folk are still dying every week from Covid and huge numbers have been left with long term impairment or disability making it near impossible to return to their working life or caring responsibilities. This is causing huge financial problems for folk who were previously fit and well and now are having the shock of ‘the disability experience of dealing with the DWP’ ! The government wants them out of the limelight and swept under the carpet with the rest of us who are chronically sick and/or disabled!
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      Deborah · 14 days ago
      @Alison 100% agree with you 
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    Andy · 17 days ago
    Surprised that no mention is made of Covid, ie those suffering long term complications due to Long Covid. Lockdowns affecting people's mental health and finally the vaccine side effects causing people to suffer with physical health issues
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Rosie · 19 days ago
    I have noticed the increase in articles with clickbait headlines regarding PIP. I assume that these are part of a right-wing drive to get the public riled up about how easy it is to make a successful claim for almost nothing; a recent one that particularly annoyed me was "You can get £PIP Maximum award for hayfever", which is so obviously a lie!!  If you just read the headline, it would enrage the reader (as it was designed to do) but the article was actually about a genuine claimant who just so happened to be suffering from hay fever at the time of her review, and was surprised that the DWP's so-called Medical Professional  asked her about it at all.  

    What appears to have started out as an attempt to stir up public outcry about the cost of disability benefit (and how the system is being abused by people who aren't really disabled at all), seems to have had the unintended effect of bringing the actual existence of PIP to the public attention. The campaign has effectively "shot itself in the foot" by raising the profile of PIP.

    Or was that the intention all along? Encourage people to claim PIP so that you can say "it's costing too much, so must be reformed".  Either way, legitimate PIP claimants are being demonised. Do we really want a society where there is no safety net from government for the elderly, sick or disabled? 
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    ward · 20 days ago
    Nobody is talking about the clickbait Media pushing the mantra 'You can get claim up to £1000 with one these conditions' in locally and national press which I think is also pushing claims up as well as waiting times in NHS or long waits for GP appointments leading to peoples health failing further.  Some maybe they didn't realise they could claim are now doing so but suspect those numbers are tiny. Its also good that many claimants are also challenging wrong  decisions and winning at tribunals.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Laura · 20 days ago
      @ward I think the click bait was designed to make the public think people on disability benefits get 1000's and so garner support for cutting PIP - even though the main disability benefit is completely inadequate to live on alone. Not only that - the health element for UC is being removed with the WCA, so to qualify you will need to successfully claim PIP. That's another factor that will be driving up claims - the idea that otherwise you will be at the mercy of job coaches who have no medical training and regularly use sanctions because of their own illegal failure to apply reasonably adjustments. 
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      Me · 20 days ago
      @ward If you are eligible for ESA support group you are likely to be eligible for pip. People are struggling to survive on long term benefits so when the tabloid's inc.  local paper's are pushing pip people are turning to it for a lifeline. I am in the same boat but when I saw the push,I smelt a rat and chose to struggle rather than fall into what appears to be an impending trap/ordeal. 

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