Ministers have delayed their welfare reforms for disability benefits with immediate effect.
The new personal independence payment (PIP) was scheduled to begin this month however it is now said to be introduced at the discretion of the department. Claimants from the disability living allowance will be transferred to the new PIP when circumstances change. The change is an important part of the government’s shift to universal credit.
New claimants were placed on the system in April and the work and pension’s secretary, Iain Duncan Smith has pledged to end a “ridiculous” system that gives people lifetime award, reports the Guardian. The delay is said to be due to “the end-to-end claiming process is taking longer than expected”.
Many charities and disability rights groups are criticising the changes saying that it denies some groups benefits and causes anxiety for many disabled people who are now facing reassessment of their claims.
A spokesman for the department has said the most existing DLA claimants “will not be re-assessed until 2015 or later, after [the department] has considered the findings of the first independent review in 2014”.
The department said: “The issue giving rise to the need for amending regulations only came to light at the beginning of October as a result of our on-going analysis of the introduction of PIP for new claims and the processes supporting it. As a consequence, the department wants to deliver a more controlled and measured start to natural reassessment, due to commence from 28 October. The department has worked as quickly as possible to identify and develop a range of options to deliver this, together with the necessary clerical and technical processes to support the aim. These regulations bring forward the preferred option which allows the department to introduce natural reassessment in a more gradual, controlled and manageable way.”
The shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, has said that the delay is the latest sign the government’s welfare reform were not going well under Duncan Smith. “First the work programme, then the universal credit, and now the introduction of the personal independence payment – each failing to go to plan,” she said. “The delivery problems we are seeing at the Department for Work and Pensions now risk descending into farce. But for thousands of disabled people who are already extremely anxious about the changes, this is no joke. Not only is David Cameron’s government out of touch but it’s increasingly incompetent.”
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