I hope that you do not mind me contacting you. As Disabled Ramblers, many of us rely on Disability benefit, currently DLA, to keep us mobile. This is being replaced by Personal Independence Payments. I just want make sure that everyone is aware of what is happening, whether or not you decide to do anything about it. So I hope that you will read on.
I am writing to you about imminent changes to disability benefits. Disability Living Allowance, which covers help with the extra costs associated with disability, whether they are personal care or help with getting around, is being replaced by a new benefit, Personal Independence Payments (PIP). This is being done by regulations (a statutory instrument) which are to be considered by Parliamentary Committee and then voted on by Parliament. They will be considered sometime in the next few weeks.
This is urgent; anyone who objects to this needs to contact their MP promptly. Later in this message, there are links to proforma e-mail letters that I hope you will want to send.
The Government have said that they want to save 20% of the DLA budget, so it is no surprise that PIP is a much less generous benefit than DLA. Every eligible disabled person, even those currently receiving indefinite or lifetime awards of DLA, will have to apply for the new benefit. Many will lose the financial help towards coping with their disability that they currently receive. Their need will remain the same, but under the new PIP regulations they will be regarded as needing less help and so get less money.
Under PIP, 500,000 will lose disability benefit and by 2018, 510,000 will receive much less benefit.
There are lots of points that I could make about this, but there are three major ones.
1 Many, probably 42%, will lose their Motability cars
Motability cars are paid for by people who receive higher rate DLA (as “unable” or “virtually unable to walk”), signing over this benefit to hire a car or buggy or to buy one on hire purchase. Under DLA there was no limit set for the distance that claimants could not walk. This was one factor to be considered along with the speed, time taken and the effect on their health of attempting to walk. The first draft of the PIP regulations proposed that for the first time a distance should be set: 50 metres, which would bring the new disability benefit into line with the distance for the support group in ESA (the new sickness benefit). It is a shock that the current draft regulations stipulate 20 metres or less for the enhanced (higher) rate of PIP mobility. This was never consulted upon.
20 metres is the length of the floor of the House of Commons or two double Decker buses.
Anyone who can walk between 20-50 metres (who does not have certain additional problems) will only get the standard (lower) rate of mobility benefit under PIP This is £21 per week – which will pay for one modest return taxi trip. The enhanced (higher) rate is £55.25 per week. So no car, no blue badge or disabled parking space – even if you can only walk 21 metres.
2 There are also adverse changes to the Personal Care component.
There will only be two rates instead of three, and it will be more difficult to claim. Many who used to be on the lowest rate will get nothing.
3 Reliably, Repeatedly and Safely and in a Timely Manner
This is a bit more technical. The phrase relates to whether people are assessed for benefit in a mechanistic way on a snapshot of what actions they can perform once, or in a more sensible way on what they can do in reality.
The phrase applies to the way in which people carry out everyday actions.
- Repeatedly: someone may be able to do an action once but not repeat it within an reasonable time.
- Reliably: someone may be able to do something infrequently, not whenever they want to or need to.
- Safely: someone may be able to do something but have to lie down afterwards, or they may need a day or even a week to recover; or it may put their health at risk
- In a Timely Manner: it may take someone a very long time to complete an action
The concept is that if you cannot do something reliably, repeatedly or safely, or in a timely manner, you should be regarded as not being able to do it at all. This has obvious implications for those of us disabled by long term sickness, especially where abilities may fluctuate.
It was hoped that this concept would be included in the regulations (based on the assurances of the previous Disability Minister, Lord Freud) but this is not the case. It is referred to on the DWP website, and so may be mentioned in the guidance notes to DWP assessors. But these will only be advisory and not legally binding. If this phrase is not included in the regulations, claimants are likely to be disqualified because they can do an action once, even if they cannot do it repeatedly, reliably, safely or in a timely manner. They will have difficulty in appealing, because this concept is not legally effective.