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Half a million disabled people may lose benefit
Wednesday 18 January 2012
Mencap believes that government plans for PIP “threaten the ability of many people with a learning disability to live independently”
The government opened its consultation into Personal Independent Payment (PIP) assessment criteria on Monday (16 January).
PIP will replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) from 2013, ahead of which, the government has been looking at changing the assessment criteria for PIP. Ministers said that without reform, there would be 2.2 million people on DLA by 2015–16, but with the introduction of PIP, this figure falls to 1.7 million.
Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller said: “We are replacing DLA with Personal Independence Payment and introducing a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews – something missing under the current system. Under PIP, support will be focused on those who need it most, with a greater proportion getting the higher rates compared to DLA.”
David Congdon, Mencap’s head of policy and campaigns said: “The government predicts that half a million disabled people will no longer be found eligible for support through PIP. This directly contradicts the coalition agreement to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected.
“In particular, it seems that those disabled people with lower level needs, but who nevertheless face extra costs associated with their disability, will lose out. For example, a person with a learning disability who lives independently, but who needs some level of help each week with things like cooking, shopping and sorting their household bills, may no longer be eligible for the benefit. The government’s plans threaten the ability of many people with a learning disability to live independently.”
The transition to PIP was confirmed, on Tuesday night, when the House of Lords rejected an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill, which would have delayed the replacement of the DLA. Peers voted by 229 to 213, to reject an amendment tabled by Paralympian Lady Grey-Thompson. She proposed holding pilots of the new benefit before implementing it fully, but the government warned her plan would cost £1.4 billion.
In better news, the debate also saw welfare reform minister Lord Freud confirm the government’s commitment to protect the mobility component of DLA for people living in residential care, following the Low Review.
Mencap president Lord Rix said: “I would very much like, as president of Mencap, to thank the minister and his colleagues for accepting this situation and the Low report. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Low on his splendid research into this problem. It is wonderful to hear the government's change of tack.”
The vote on PIP follows another in the House of Lords, on increasing the time limit on contributory Employment and Support Allowance to two years. It was won by 234 votes to 186.
In February, the Welfare Reform Bill will return to the House of Commons and MPs will either reject or accept changes made by the Lords. The Hardest Hit group, which includes Mencap, is asking campaigners to email their MP to ask them to make benefits fair.
Read the consultation document