Government set to repeat benefit assessment mistakes, warns Scope
17 January 2012
As the Welfare Reform Bill continues to be debated, and just days after the Government was defeated in the House of Lords over its proposed changes to Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Scope warns that the government is in danger of repeating mistakes with its new benefit assessment.
The charity says that up to two million disabled people risk losing essential financial support because the new £6 billion Personal Independence Payment, introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), will use a flawed eligibility assessment.
It warns the Government of repeating the same mistakes made with the Work Capability Assessment used to test eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance, which has seen thousands of people appealing decisions by assessors.
Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton has tabled an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill to request that the PIP assessment recognises the range or social, practical and environmental barriers disabled people face in everyday life.
She said: “Without the support that Disability Living Allowance gave me, I would not have been able to sit in the House of Lords. This benefit truly gives disabled people the opportunity to live independent lives. If the Government wants to target this benefit as accurately as possible, it is essential that the assessment used for its replacement is as accurate as possible. I hope my fellow Lords put their full support behind this critical amendment.”
Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of disability charity Scope, continued:
“It is astonishing that, despite the deep anxiety disabled people have over the PIP assessment, and the catalogue of errors over the work capability assessment, the Government appears to be repeating the same mistakes again. Disabled people and their families are rapidly losing their trust in Government and questioning its commitment to continue supporting those with the greatest need. We urge the Government to press pause with its PIP reforms and take time to actually listen and understand disabled people’s concerns so it can create benefit that actually drives down costs in the long-term, rather than placing a sticking plaster over them.”
“Disabled people no longer trust the Government over its welfare reforms. Too many families have had their lives turned upside down because of failures with the work capability assessment and the government cannot risk making the same mistake with PIP.”
Notes to the Editor:
For more information, please contact the Scope press office on 020 7619 7200.
About Disability Living Allowance
- DLA was introduced in 1992 because day-to-day activities cost more if you are disabled. This can include anything from increased electricity bills, running medical equipment and doing laundry more often, to increased transport costs, specialist clothing and having to buy more expensive ready-made food, which is easier to cook. There are two components, one for care and one for mobility.
- In 2010, the Government announced plan to replace DLA with the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and the introduction of a medical assessment.
DLA in numbers
Overall DLA caseload and expenditure
- Overall, 3.2 million disabled people receive DLA.
- Forecast expenditure on the benefit for 2011-2012 is £12.6 billion.
DLA caseload by age (most recent figures)
- Children under 16 on DLA: 328,390
- Working age (16-64) (note: this is the group that will be reassessed): 2,001,670
- Pension age (65+): 827,160
DLA working age caseload and expenditure (figures from February 2011)
- Working age claimants = 1.8 million
- Working age expenditure = £6.7 billion
Scope published research last year that found that unless the assessment considers the social, practical and environmental barriers that disabled people face, thousands of people could be left with the wrong levels of support and in some cases no support at all. It calls for the assessment to look at all the areas of a disabled person’s daily life where they experience barriers and extra costs, including as a result of:
- Unsuitable or poorly adapted housing
- Inaccessible public transport and having to rely on private hire to run everyday errands
- Lack of informal support network to help with household tasks and care needs
- Being employed or undertaking voluntary work
- Many people appeal the outcome of their Work Capability Assessment through the Tribunals Service. Currently 40% of these appeals are found in favour of their claimant. Work Capability Assessment Appeals.