Welfare Reform Bill

Memorandum submitted by Mrs Jane Young (WR 71)

 

1. Whilst the aim of simplifying the benefits system is a laudable one, the devil, as ever, is in the detail. As a disabled person I intend to address only the proposals for reform of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) by the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Other issues affecting disabled people have been well aired by others.

2. The aim of reducing expenditure on DLA by 20% by the introduction of PIP is highly regrettable, as it seeks to specifically disadvantage disabled people as part of the government’s aim to reduce the deficit. Whilst the DLA application process is not ideal, and it can be argued there is insufficient checking of entitlement, it is a benefit which is highly effective in supporting disabled people with their care and mobility needs. In particular, it allows claimants to describe their difficulties in an open-ended way, thus addressing the extremely wide range of challenges faced by disabled people. Its loss will have a devastating effect on the lives and income of thousands of disabled people who are the least able to bear the extra costs incurred by their impairment.

3. Having seen the draft PIP eligibility criteria I am extremely concerned that many thousands of disabled people will fail to qualify for the benefit as they are drawn so restrictively. Whilst I will submit my response to the draft criteria separately, I am concerned that as currently drafted they fail to address, among other needs, the need for supervision, the need for night time assistance, the need to get into and out of bed and, in relation to the daily living component, completely fail to address the effects of pain and fatigue or the need to move around indoors. They do not address the extremely varied needs of many, many disabled people with long term conditions.

4. Having seen the list of those who developed the draft PIP criteria I am extremely concerned that a maximum of two people on that list would identify as disabled people. The criteria should have been developed by disabled people with a variety of different impairments and long term conditions; this would be much more likely to produce sensible criteria that would take account of the infinite variety of disabled people’s needs. This approach would also demonstrate the government’s commitment to the involvement of disabled people, which currently appears to be more rhetoric than reality.

5. The draft PIP criteria show clear evidence of lobbying by organisations representing people with learning difficulties and mental health problems. Whilst this is to be welcomed, they also show clear evidence of a total lack of consideration of the needs of people with long term conditions involving pain and fatigue.

6. The documents published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the comments made by Maria Miller in committee all refer to PIP as being designed to enable participation. However, the criteria include very few elements which promote participation, as they do not include any criteria relating to social activities or community involvement, which are key elements of participation.

7. My MP asked the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller, what help the government would give to families who stand to lose their only car as a result of the loss of their Motability vehicle following migration from DLA to PIP. Both her answer and the answer I received from Motability were totally inadequate, as both sought to shift the responsibility onto each other. This is just not good enough, given that many, many families are dependent on a Motability funded car. Transitional arrangements should be the very least we can expect.

8. The issue of the loss of the only family car is even more acute for families of disabled people in residential settings, since the removal of the mobility component from this group has only been delayed, not scrapped. For disabled people in residential care to lose their Motability vehicle, wheelchair or scooter will be devastating, and it is totally and utterly unrealistic to expect local authorities to provide individuals and families with their own car, wheelchair or scooter! If the government thinks local authorities have the money to buy people cars it is clearly not living in the real world.

9. The failure of the government to include within the statute itself the provision for people over 65 to claim PIP if they were eligible before that age is very worrying. Those of us who will reach retirement age within the next few years would find the inclusion of the relevant provision in the statute far more reassuring than the promise of regulations which can be changed with a great deal less scrutiny. This does not demonstrate a commitment by the government to supporting disabled people; it demonstrates the government’s failure to commit itself to providing reliable long term support.

10. Whilst the government has not stated which organisation will undertake the assessments for PIP, it is widely expected that Atos will get the contract. This would be a total disaster; there are far too many stories of how the behaviour of the company and its employees fails to support disabled people through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and the company and its assessments are widely discredited.

11. Whilst the government tells us the assessments for PIP will not be medical assessments, it states that they will be undertaken by healthcare professionals. If the assessments are not medical assessments, they should be undertaken by people with a good understanding of disability – disabled people who have disability equality training and specific training for the assessment process.

12. Training disabled people to be assessors would solve several problems at once: it would provide employment to disabled people and improve the credibility of the assessment process. If this means the government equipping and supporting an organisation OF disabled people to undertake this project, this would be money well worth spent.

May 2011