As we come to the end of another year, it is the traditional time to look ahead and predict what may happen in the next 12 months and beyond. And it seems the Government has been doing some crystal-ball-gazing of its own with its predictions for disability living allowance (DLA) reassessments.
Apparently, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) already knows how many people will be cut from the new personal independence payment (PIP), which replaces DLA next year, and how many will be moved onto a lower award, before anyone has actually been reassessed.
Take this quote from disability minister Esther McVey in the Commons last week: “By October 2015, we [DWP] 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.”
Sounds like a fait accompli to me.
I’ve yet to see any reasoning for these figures or how they were arrived at, other than that the Government has a stated aim of cutting the bill for DLA and PIP – but again, that seems to have been set at an arbitrary figure.
Surely, if the assessment process for PIP is as fair as the Government makes out it will be, then they would not know how many people would be eligible for an award? Do these stated figures mean the assessors will have targets for the number of people they can pass for PIP?
There are already concerns about the assessment criteria and whether they allow for the subtleties of someone’s learning disability. This kind of announcement will do nothing to dispel those worries.
Part of the justification for the reform of DLA/PIP is to ensure that, to quote McVey again, “we can use the money we spend on disabled people more efficiently and effectively to help those most in need.”
OK, nobody would expect support to be taken away from people with complex disabilities and high support needs. And of course the Government will talk up the people who will be getting more, to take attention away from those who will get less – or nothing.
But the truth is that the broad intention is to reduce overall spending on these benefits. So, what about those who are not in most need, but have some needs and who seem to be most vulnerable to these cuts? Do they not need help as well?
For example, what about those who require relatively minor support or additional equipment to be able to hold down a job? Judging by what is coming out of the DWP, they are the ones who will be losing out.
And they won’t just be losing money each week – although that will be difficult enough to cope with – for some, it will mean they won’t be able to work anymore. There are numerous anecdotal accounts from people who say they will not be able to maintain work without the support that DLA buys them. Then there are the knock-on effects of loss of independence, difficulty making ends meet and so on.
This announcement will fill those on lower rates of DLA with anything but Christmas cheer, as they face an unpredictable future, thanks to the increasing prospect of losing significant amounts of their benefit, in years to come.