EMMA LEWELL-BUCK: Disabled must not be left destitute

PIP must be properly implemented
PIP must be properly implemented

In April 2013 the Coalition Government began the introduction of Personal Independent Payments (PIP) as a replacement for Disability living Allowance (DLA) which meant people who were disabled and chronically ill having to undergo assessments to prove they were not able to work and therefore eligible for benefits.

This hare-brained policy change resulted in total chaos with ill-informed and unqualified staff dealing with assessments, people having their appointments at assessment centres cancelled at the last moment, lost applications, unacceptable delays with the processing of claims and two in five applicants attending assessment centres that weren’t accessible to disabled people.

Recipients of PIP are assessed using a points system to determine what level of help they receive.

Following a review, the Government has decided to make further changes to these assessments and reduce the weight given to the use of aids and appliances in two of the 10 daily living activities - dressing and managing toilet needs. The government says they expect people to have these appliances in their homes already.

The changes from January 2017 will see 640,000 disabled people with no award or a smaller award by 2020/21 and for many DLA claimants, it means that their chances of being awarded PIP when they are forced off DLA have now been drastically reduced.

Without PIP, a disabled person cannot gain access to other benefits such as Carer’s Allowance or disability premiums and anyone who has their claim rejected or lowered to the standard rate will also lose their eligibility to the Motorbility scheme for an accessible car, a powered wheelchair or scooter.

Between 400 and 500 adapted cars, powered wheelchairs and scooters are being taken away from disabled people every week and they have only seven weeks to hand their transportation lifeline back.

This timescale is far less than it takes to go to an appeal (of which 60% are successful) or even to find out the outcome of a mandatory re-consideration leading to the ruling possibly being overturned, but the disabled person’s car or wheelchair will already have been taken back. This can leave people housebound and feeling isolated.

PIP was supposedly designed to help people who are disabled or living with serious health conditions with the extra costs they face, but for too many people the system is not working.

The Government needs to urgently ensure that the PIP process is implemented properly and responds to people’s changing needs.

The Government must not take away benefits that will leave the sick and disabled destitute.

Their lives are not merely pawns in their game of political chess.