The government’s decision to reverse its plans to cut the number of people who are eligible to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has been welcomed, but does not go far enough, a learning disability charity has warned.
While the U-turn, announced by new Work and Pensions Minister Stephen Crabb on Monday, will bring “relief” to many people with disabilities who had potentially stood to lose out on vital income, Mencap has said the government needs to go further and focus on improving support services.
The government’s decision to change the eligibility criteria for the daily living component of PIP, following a review that found the current criteria “may not be working as planned”, was confirmed in last week’s Budget by George Osborne. However, this decision brought widespread criticism, not only from disability charities and campaigners, but Labour and even Conservative MPs. Iain Duncan Smith cited this move as a reason for resigning his post as Work and Pensions Secretary.
But the government should go further, according to Dan Scorer, head of policy at Mencap. “[The] welcome decision not to proceed with hugely damaging cuts to PIP may be long overdue recognition by the Government that disabled people and their families have already endured massive cuts to benefits and care services they rely on,” he said.
“However, many people with a learning disability in future stand to lose £1,500 a year from cuts to Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit that the government forced through parliament earlier this month. This is on top of £4.6 billion worth of funding cuts to social care in the past 5 years, which has reduced disabled people's access to vital support, pushing them to the fringes of society.
“The decision to go back on cuts to PIP will be a huge relief to hundreds of thousands of disabled people across the UK, who time and again have been hit hardest by cuts to the benefits and social care they rely on, but it doesn't go nearly far enough. We urge the government to focus instead on improving support necessary so that people with a learning disability can find employment, be part of their communities and live independent and fulfilling lives.
“We look forward to hearing from the government on how they will deliver Stephen Crabb's commitment to listen to disabled people and their families about the changes they want to see.”
Adam, 31, who has a learning disability and is going to be re-assessed for PIP, said: “Soon I have to fill in a new form and be re-assessed to see if I still qualify for a new disability benefit called Personal Independence Payment. I’m worried I am going to lose the support I need to leave the house, make ends meet and enjoy life. I’m scared about these benefit cuts.
“To me it feels like the government is behaving like a school bully who has taken away my dinner money. He then tells me that I can have it back, but only if I prove how ‘disabled’ I am.
“Every day I work hard to make the best of my disability. But why does the government want to make life even harder for people like me to get on in life?”