Learning disability charity Mencap has warned that Government plans to introduce the personal independence payment (PIP) could threaten the ability of people with learning disabilities to live independently.

This message came as the Government launched a consultation on the assessment criteria for PIP last week. PIP will replace disability living allowance (DLA) from 2013. Ahead of this, the government has been looking at changing the assessment criteria for PIP. Ministers said that without reform, there would be 2.2 million people on DLA by 2015-16, but with the introduction of PIP, this figure falls to 1.7 million.

The transition to PIP was confirmed last week, when the House of Lords rejected an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill, which would have delayed the replacement of DLA. Paralymipian Lady Grey-Thompson had tabled a proposal to hold pilots of the new benefit before implementing it fully. But the government had warned that the plan would cost £1.4 billion. Peers voted 229 to 213 to reject the amendment. However, the House of Lords did confirm the government's earlier commitment that the mobility component of DLA will be retained for people in residential care. The government had planned to axe it as part of the Welfare Reform Bill, but changed its plans after public opposition, and an independent review into it by Lord Low.

David Congdon, Mencap's head of policy and campaigns, said: "The government predicts that half a million disabled people will no longer be found eligible for support through PIP. This directly contradicts the coalition agreement to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected. "In particular, it seems that those disabled people with lower level needs, but who nevertheless face extra costs associated with their disability, will lose out. For example, a person with a learning disability who lives independently, but who needs some level of help each week with things like cooking, shopping and sorting their household bills, may no longer be eligible for the benefit. The government's plans threaten the ability of many people with a learning disability to live independently."

To view the consultation on the assessment criteria for PIP, click here