Disability charities have criticised the Government’s plans to cut the number of people eligible for new disability benefit the personal independence payment (PIP).

PIP replaces disability living allowance in April 2013. Currently about 3.2 million people receive DLA, receiving weekly payments of between £20.55 and £131.50 to assist them in leading independent lives.

However, the number of people who will receive PIP is set to fall. In Parliament on December 13, while announcing that the timetable for reassessing existing claimants of DLA is to be extended, disability minister Esther McVey also outlined case load assumptions about the impact of PIP. “By October 2015, we will have reassessed 560,000 claimants. Of those, 160,000 will get a reduced award and 170,000 will get no award, but 230,000 will get the same or more support. “Under the new criteria, almost a quarter of PIP recipients will get both of the highest rates, worth £134.40 each week, compared with only 16% on DLA.

“By reforming the system and ensuring that it is fit for the 21st century we can use the money we spend on disabled people more efficiently and effectively to help those most in need.”

But The Hardest Hit, a coalition of some 50 charities and organisations campaigning about the benefits system, says that by October 2018 if Government continued with DLA, 2.182 million disabled people of working age would be receiving some help. With PIP the number is 1.575 million – a reduction of about 608,000.

Steve Winyard, co-chair of the Hardest Hit, said: “Just a couple of weeks before Christmas, the Government has delivered crushingly bad news for over 600,000 disabled people. [The] announcement of the PIP regulations confirms that they will lose all help with the extra living costs they face due to their impairment. A further sizeable group will receive significantly reduced financial support in order to deliver the £2 billion saving that the Treasury is seeking from the abolition of DLA. This is a cruel and unwanted early Christmas ‘present’ for disabled people already hardest hit by the Government’s austerity programme.”

“Back in 2010 the Prime Minister promised to protect the most vulnerable while seeking to reduce the deficit. However this has been totally forgotten as disabled people experience deep cuts to their benefits, services and rights. Last week it was the reduction in the value of employment and support allowance, today it is entitlement to DLA/PIP.”

Mark Lever, chief executive of The National Autistic Society, added: “It is concerning that in making her statement to Parliament, Disabilities Minister Esther McVey set out very clearly the numbers of people who she believed will qualify for the new benefit.

“The Government must ensure that all assessments are conducted independently and fairly and arbitrary targets are not placed on assessors, as the process is rolled out.”

Jane Alltimes, Mencap’s senior campaigns and policy officer, added: “While we welcome the fact that there will be an increase in the numbers of people getting both the enhanced rate of PIP for mobility and daily living, we are hugely concerned about those people who have lower level needs, but who will miss out on support altogether.

“Looking at the assessment criteria, we believe that some people with a learning disability will struggle to accumulate enough points to reach the threshold for eligibility. We remain disappointed that there has been no work carried out by the government to look at the impact the loss of this benefit will have on disabled individuals, or the knock-on impact to other services like the NHS.”