The broad concerns expressed about the Government’s proposed change from DLA to PIP have concentrated on a general threat to disabled people’s income. But Helen Dolphin points out that there is a particular threat coming down the road in relation to travel.
Like many disabled people I am becoming increasingly concerned by the Government’s plans to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Since becoming disabled 14 years ago I’ve relied on this benefit to help me lead a relatively independent life. Of greatest importance to me in regaining my independence was the mobility component of DLA which enabled me to get a Motability vehicle and consequently get back to work. Living in Norfolk where we don’t have the greatest accessible public transport I would have found getting a job without my own transport extremely difficult.
Not getting this benefit wasn’t something I’d ever had to consider before as I fell into the category that automatically got higher rate mobility component of DLA as I am a double leg amputee. However, DWP has now published the proposed points thresholds for getting an award of PIP in a document entitled Personal Independence Payment: assessment thresholds and consultation and no longer are there any disabilities that qualify automatically and everybody will have to be reassessed.
At this stage both the points and the thresholds are draft ones and the Government is inviting disabled people and disability organisations to take part in a consultation on the scoring system between now and 30 April 2012. I would urge people to have a look at the scoring system and see how it is likely to affect you and then let DWP know. Do bear in mind that, if precedent is anything to go by, DWP is likely to interpret the wording of the activities quite harshly as the Government has already stated that they expect half a million fewer people to be receiving PIP in 2016 than would receive DLA, if these proposals are accepted.
This prediction comes from a trial where 900 people were assessed under the second draft of the PIP assessment criteria. The results suggested that these assessment criteria would produce a 2015/16 16-64 caseload of 1.7 million people receiving PIP compared to 2.2 million if PIP wasn’t introduced. This is an awful lot of people predicted to lose this benefit. However, bearing in mind the enormous range of different disabilities that exist I find it hard to believe that a sample of 900 has really given that accurate a result.
If you haven’t had a chance to look at the scoring system yet there are basically 11 different categories which look at things likes preparing food and drink and dressing and undressing. Nine of the sections are related to the daily living component and just two count towards mobility. These are entitled “Planning and following a journey” and “Moving around”. To get the mobility component award you need to score eight points for the standard rate and 12 points for the enhanced rate. If this benefit follows a similar system to DLA then only those receiving the enhanced rate would be entitled to use the Motability scheme.
Concerns have already been raised by disability organisations that for the mobility component of PIP claimants who cannot walk more than 50 metres, even if they need to use some sort of aid other than a wheelchair to do so, will no longer be entitled to the enhanced (higher) rate of the mobility component on those grounds alone. Instead they will get only the standard rate. Nothing is taken into consideration such as the surface people can walk on or how long it might take.
Many blind claimants also look set to lose their higher rate mobility award which was only recently won after years of campaigning.
The only good news on the new criteria is it is not yet set in stone and we do still have time to let the Government know what we think. I know for me the most essential part of my DLA is the mobility component but I know for other people it is the care component. But whatever it is read the criteria and act now, as once these new thresholds are brought in it could be years before they are looked at again.