Groups raise worries over reform of disability benefit

Disability groups voiced concern yesterday about the launch of a new benefit which the Government insists is not aimed at saving money.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which was introduced more than 20 years ago, is being replaced by a Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The new benefit will be phased in, starting in Bootle, Merseyside, covering a few thousand claims a month, and extending to other parts of the country from June.

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Disabled People Minister Esther McVey said the Government would be spending broadly the same amount on boosting the income of disabled people at the end of this Parliament, about £13bn.

She said the reforms would slow the expansion in the benefit to new claimants and make sure it went to those who needed it most, adding: “Disability Living Allowance is an outdated benefit introduced over 20 years ago 
and needs reform to better reflect today’s understanding of disability.

“At the moment the vast majority of claimants get the benefit for life without any systematic reassessments and around 50 per cent of decisions are made on the basis of the claim form alone – without any additional corroborating medical evidence.

“The Personal Independence Payment will include a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews, something missing in the current system.

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“This will ensure the billions we spend give more targeted support to those who need it most.”

Disability Rights UK said it was concerned that the new benefit, alongside other changes such as the bedroom tax, council tax and the reduction in social care support from local authorities, would have a “major impact” on disabled people’s quality of life and independent living.

Chief executive Liz Sayce, said: “We are very concerned about the impact of PIP which could see thousands of disabled people become institutionalised in their own homes.

“For example, the Department for Work and Pensions expects that 428,000 disabled people who currently get the higher rate mobility component will lose it altogether or receive the lower amount. This means that many will lose their car under the Motability car scheme so they will no longer be able to get to work or get out and about.

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“If the purpose of PIP is to contribute to the extra costs of disability so that disabled people can maintain their independence, we doubt whether this will be achieved.

“Under DLA, disabled people who are unable to cook a main meal for themselves and those disabled people who need continual support or supervision to ensure they are not in substantial danger will be made an award. This is not the case under PIP.”

The Government said that, at present, 71 per cent get the disability benefit for life, without any systematic reassessments to see if they still need it.