The Disability Benefits Consortium, a national coalition of over 50 different charities and other organisations committed to working towards a fair benefits system, has branded the Government’s latest decision on the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), as ‘short sighted’ and a ‘decision to choose financial savings over the independence of disabled people’.
Under these plans, if disabled people can walk more than just 20 metres – even using aids such as sticks – they will no longer qualify for the highest rate of the benefit. The government previously used the well-embedded distance of 50 metres which has been used as a measure of significant mobility impairment for the last 35 years.
The DBC is extremely disappointed that the Government has failed to listen to the reasoned arguments from a range of different sectors about the new criteria to qualify for the highest rate of the benefit.
Over the summer the government consulted on its changes to the criteria being used to assess people for the enhanced rate mobility component of PIP. The DBC called on the Government to re-think its plans to change the distance people need to walk in order to qualify.
More than 10,000 people and over 80 charities, healthcare organisations, Local Authorities and celebrities, including Jane Asher and Janis Winehouse, signed a letter to David Cameron and Nick Clegg opposing the changes to the benefit.
Government projections show that nearly half a million disabled people will no longer qualify for the highest rate of the mobility component of PIP. The change could mean a loss of over £33 a week or access to a Motability vehicle, electric wheelchair or mobility scooter – which many use to get to work, college or medical appointments.
PIP is intended to help disabled people with the additional costs they face as a result of their health condition or disability and focus on those “most in need”. Campaigners argue that the rule will leave many of those in greatest need without vital support and the means to remain independent. In many cases it could mean having to give up work.
Claire Nurden, Co-Chair of the DBC and Senior Policy and Campaigns officer at the MS Society said:
“We are extremely disappointed that the government has ignored grave concerns about the 20 metre rule, and has instead chosen financial savings over the independence of disabled people. The decision is incredibly short sighted.
“PIP is supposed to help those most in need but it is exactly these people that are now set to lose. We have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve had from disabled people who are terrified about what this rule will mean for them. Many will be at risk of losing their jobs as they’ll be unable to get to work. Others will not be able to get to medical appointments, or will have to leave education – they will, quite literally, be trapped in their own homes”
“The government’s strengthened plans for assessors to consider how people with disabilities complete activities in the assessment will be important in the new system, but will not negate the impact of the 20 metre rule – which will still have a devastating impact on disabled people”
The DBC is calling on the government to publish the responses to the consultation. The consortium also seeks assurances that the government will put plans in place to ensure those who lose out on the 20 metre rule do not disappear from the system, falling into isolation but with no form of help or support.
The DBC argue that the disability needs of people who are denied the benefit will not disappear, but are likely to be pushed on to other more expensive areas of government spending – like unemployment benefits, social care and emergency NHS services.
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Notes to editors:
- The letter, in full, can be read here: https://disabilitybenefitsconsortium.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/pip-open-letter1.pdf