Despite the government insisting it is a fairer method for giving out benefits and is not primarily intended to save money, campaigners say it will have a negative effect on the lives of disabled people.
The new benefit to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is starting to be introduced this month in parts of northern England, and will gradually be rolled out nationally from June.
It has been introduced as part of an overall reform of the welfare budget, and concerns have been raised about the effect this will have on the quality of life for the people who have disabilities.
Combined with the other welfare cuts, such as council tax benefit cuts and the bedroom tax, and also the overall reductions to social care services, there will be a big change to the overall support people with disabilities receive.
Although it is expected to save money, the government say it is not intended as a cost cutting measure but a way to ensure the right people are receiving the money.
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, will 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.
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.”
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said:
We have serious concerns about the face-to-face assessments people with autism will have to undergo in order to claim PIP.
The less visible difficulties of this complex disability can be hard to understand for assessors who are not specialists.
Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey, defends the change and says it is intended to redirect current funding:
At the moment the vast majority of claimants get the benefit for life without any systematic reassessments and around 50% 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. This will ensure that the billions we spend give more targeted support to those who need it most.
However, many people say that the government are manipulating the statistics as an excuse to scrap DLA, which has been shown by Disability News Service‘s analysed of the figures that the government are releasing and using as their evidence.
Anne McGuire, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said:
Although the DWP says that the minister did not use the words ‘closing down sale’, she is obviously comfortable with the language, which is insulting to the many disabled people who were applying for the benefit out of need.
This government has shown no shame in the misleading use of statistics over past months as they sought to stoke up antagonism to disabled people who are claiming benefits.
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