Disabled people in Greater Manchester have benefits stopped while in hospital due to controversial rule

The numbers of people in Greater Manchester who are having financial support withdrawn while in hospital is rising as charities have spoken out against the current rule.
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Hundreds of disabled people in Greater Manchester are having their benefits withdrawn while they are in hospital for extended stays - and the number is rising.

The BBC Shared Data Unit has analysed Government figures to show how many people were having money stopped due to the so-called “hospitalisation rule” where someone receiving care in hospital or a similar institution for 28 days or more does not get Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The statistics show that in the city-region those having their benefits stopped include people with schizophrenia, dementia, mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, people with learning disabilities and residents who have had strokes.

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The Government says it does not pay PIP while someone is receiving long-term NHS in-patient care to avoid paying double, but charities say the hospitalisation rule penalises some of the most vulnerable people.

What does the data show for Greater Manchester?

The BBC Shared Data Unit analysed Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) data which was disclosed under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. To ensure like-for-like comparisons, the analysis is of the figures for the quarter from 1 February to 30 April for each of the past three years - 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The data shows that the number of people having PIP suspended because they are in hospital or another type of long-term care accommodation such as nursing homes, hospices, residential colleges, sheltered housing and respite care for 28 days or more is going up in all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester. In the quarter of 2022 there were 450 people in Manchester alone who had their benefits suspended under the hospitalisation rule.

In the same quarter this year 260 people from Wigan had their PIP suspended under the hospitalisation rule, along with 230 in Salford. Every one of the 10 boroughs in the city-region showed an identical trend with the number of benefits suspensions getting higher across all three years.

The Government does not pay PIP to people while they are in the long-term care of the NHS. Photo: AdobeStockThe Government does not pay PIP to people while they are in the long-term care of the NHS. Photo: AdobeStock
The Government does not pay PIP to people while they are in the long-term care of the NHS. Photo: AdobeStock
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The data also included analysis of the health conditions which most commonly led to people having their payments stopped. These included schizophrenia, dementia, learning disabilities and psychotic disorders. In Manchester in the quarter of 2022 surveyed around 70 people with schizophrenia had their payments stopped while they were in hospital.

The BBC Shared Data Unit found that across the country as a whole the total number of PIP suspensions under the hospitalisation rule has increased during the period surveyed, from 30,860 at the end of April 2020 to 45,850 at the end of April 2022. The highest numbers of suspensions were for groups of people with mental health conditions listed as their primary disabling condition. Claimants may often have multiple conditions upon which decisions about their support are based but only the primary one is listed in the statistics.

What has been said about the data?

The government said the current rule prevents the taxpayer paying twice for someone’s care when they are being looked after by the NHS or another health body, but charities say people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, who more often require lengthy stays in hospital, are particularly penalised by it.

Critics of the hospitalisation rule say that a disability does not stop when a person enters hospital, and the costs incurred by family members are often higher during this time.

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Learning disability charity Mencap’s head of policy, Dan Scorer, said the loss of financial support could have a detrimental impact on the ability of family members and carers to continue their support and the charity would continue to challenge the hospitalisation rule.

The DWP said it had not found any evidence suggesting people with profound and multiple learning disabilities were disproportionately impacted, an assessment Mencap says it does not agree with.

The department maintained that because of rising numbers of people receiving PIP, suspensions "still formed a very small proportion of the overall PIP caseload". A spokesperson said the DWP was "committed to ensuring that disabled people get all the support to which they were entitled".