Since last year, when the government announced its plans to replace disability living allowance (DLA) with the personal independent payment (PIP), claimants have been worried about the potential adverse effect the change could have on them.
These fears have not been assuaged, if support provider Papworth Trust’s survey is to be believed. Papworth revealed that – if payments were reduced or stopped under PIP – 86% of their 2,200 respondents said they would have to cut back on essentials such as food or transport.
Additionally, 64% said they would be less independent, while only 5% said a cut would not have any effect on them. This confirms the continuing fear that plagues DLA claimants, and it’s easy to understand why.
The government is on record as saying that it wants to cut 20% from the bill for the benefit as it moves to PIP, and that all 3.2 million DLA claimants will be reassessed as part of that process. Many claimants have taken this to mean either ramping up the eligibility criteria so they no longer qualify, or reducing the payments.
The government has done little to reassure benefit claimants about the future, although minister for disabled people Maria Miller has spoken to the BBC today to say the new assessment process will be “fair” and undertaken by people who are “independent”. That’s to be expected, although critics will wonder how independent these people will be, especially as she also spoke of “keeping the cost of DLA under control”.
Surely, if you are keeping the cost under control, you have to reduce the level of payment or limit the number of people receiving it? Miller also trotted out the established government line about 70% of people claiming DLA having it for life (although the exact wording is ‘indefinite’), with no reassessment in place, meaning that they could be claiming a benefit they are no longer entitled to. There is some substance to this.
Some people’s conditions do improve, their needs become less and their ability to cope increases, but it is left to claimants to inform the Pensions Disability and Carers Service about such changes. Some may have neglected to do so.
Nevertheless, the vast majority of claimants’ conditions will remain the same, if not worsen. Statistics also show that DLA fraud is substantially lower than for other benefits.
While nothing is set in stone, the direction of travel is clear. Although there are protests and legal challenges to the DLA reforms, and investigations such as the Low Review into the mobility component, which will report back before the end of the year, it’s not at all clear if they will be able to substantially affect current plans.
So, it’s pretty clear that the worry for DLA claimants will continue for some time, probably until after their reassessments have been completed – and, depending on the results – possibly for a long time thereafter.