benefit changesMajor changes to the disability benefits for new claimants are being introduced in the north of England. It is the start of the replacement of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) by Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the “ridiculous” system under which people are awarded benefits with no further checks must end. But disability charity Scope said 600,000 people would eventually lose their finanacial support. Other critics argue that losing out will find it harder to be part of their communities.

PIPs will be introduced gradually for new claimants, starting in northern England. Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that more than 70% of claimants get DLA for life. But ministers believe the circumstances of some individuals can improve over time, so there is a case for more regular assessment.

Mr Duncan Smith told the Daily Mail: “Seventy per cent of people on it have lifetime awards which means no one sees you ever again. It doesn’t matter if you get better or your condition worsens – it’s quite ridiculous.” He added: “Taxpayers pay out £50bn in sickness and disability benefits – we’re ahead of pretty much every other major country in the G20.

“So this is not exactly what you would call harsh – this is quite reasonable to get it back under control and stop the unnecessary growth levels and make sure people who seriously need it get better payments and people who don’t will get less.”

Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey said the PIP would give more targeted support to those who need it most. “Disability Living Allowance is an outdated benefit introduced over 20 years ago and needs reform to better reflect today’s understanding of disability,” she said. “At the moment the vast majority of claimants get the benefit for life without any systematic reassessments and around 50% of decisions are made on the basis of the claim form alone – without any additional corroborating medical evidence.

“The Personal Independence Payment will include a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews – something missing in the current system. This will ensure the billions we spend give more targeted support to those who need it most.”

New claimants in the north of England will now begin face-to face assessments with ATOS – one of two companies administering the process.

From June new claims will begin in the rest of the country, and in October some of those currently receiving DLA will start moving to the new system, if there is a change in their circumstances or an existing award ends. But it will be two years before most of the 3.3 million existing claimants begin moving over to PIP. Scope says a “financial lifeline is being cut”, but the government says it will continue to spend the same amount on the benefit in 2015 as it does now.

Source: BBC NEWS


8th April 2013


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