Government pledges made yesterday to reform personal independence payment and universal credit benefits have received a lukewarm response.

"People with learning disabilities are impacted from the start of their lives and face barriers accessing education and work."

Hundreds of thousands of pensioners will no longer have to undergo reviews to carry on receiving disability benefits.

However, others will continue having to regularly "prove their disability", even in they have life-long conditions.

Stuart France, 26, has a learning disability which he will always live with.

Stuart, from Bolton, currently receives £85.60 for daily living needs and £22.65 for mobility needs each week through personal independence payment.

He will need to reapply again in three years and as he struggles with computers and writing, he will be dependent on his mother's help in making the application.

Response

"I shouldn't have to reapply all the time, I will always have this condition," Stuart told Learning Disability Today.

"I've had it since I was born, I will always have it, and I've given the government medical evidence to show this."

New work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd spoke about her blind father when announcing the changes at an event hosted by disability charity Scope.

He lost his sight in middle age, yet people with learning disabilities are impacted from the start of their lives and face barriers accessing education and work. 

“It's positive to see that pensioners will be exempt from being re-assessed, but this needs to also be the case for disabled people of working age, for whom frequent re-assessment can be extremely stressful and is often unnecessary," said Dan Scorer, head of policy and public affairs at Mencap.

"People with a learning disability are more likely to live in poverty than those without and we know that both the 'fit for work' and the 'Personal Independent Payments' assessments currently have flaws which can exacerbate their financial difficulties."

"There is a risk that merging the two could still result in one inadequate assessment, so we want Government to prioritise improving these processes so that accessing benefits is no longer a source of anxiety and hardship for people with a learning disability."

Reforms:

• A new system from 2021 to allow people to share evidence between Universal Credit (UC) and Personal Independent Payment (PIP)
• A test of one ‘integrated assessment’ that would cover UC and PIP assessments
• A test of reducing requirements to look for work for disabled people waiting for a benefits assessment
• A review of the internal process used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to review benefits decisions
• An end to award reviews for people receiving PIP who are above state pension age

"Many people are fearful about how the DWP use the highly sensitive information collected from these assessments about their mental health," said Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of mental health charity Mind.

"The DWP must make sure everyone who needs support from the benefits system is given full control over how this information is shared and used."

"Above all we can’t lose sight of the need for a fundamental reform of the assessments themselves, so that anyone applying for benefits is treated with dignity and respect they deserve."

Image: campaigners calling on politicians to 'walk in our shoes'.