Changes to disability benefits are being “rushed through” to meet Treasury targets, campaigners have argued as peers prepare to debate the issue. They want ministers to delay changes to Disability Living Allowance, saying new medical assessment tests are not ready.

A group of cross-bench peers, backed by some charities, want planned changes to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and its replacement – the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – to be put on hold pending further consultation. Campaigners say the plans will drive more people into poverty. Ministers have conceded some changes but say their plans will focus help on those who need it most.

Introduced in 1992 to help disabled people cope with the extra costs they face in their daily lives, DLA is paid to two million people of working age. It is thought that half a million fewer people will qualify for PIPs by 2015 if the changes are passed. One critic of the proposals, Lord Low – president of the Disability Alliance charity – said the changes were being driven by the government’s need to save money rather than the interests of disabled people.

The problems with a new “work assessment” test for incapacity benefit – which is causing controversy years after coming into force – should be a warning to ministers, he added. But disabilities minister Maria Miller said campaigners were wrong to suggest that DLA was being cut by 20% and the government remained “absolutely committed to the idea and practice” of enabling people with disabilities to live independent lives.

The government has already agreed to halve the time seriously ill or disabled people will have to wait to be eligible for PIPs from six to three months. The government wants to pass its welfare reform bill, one of its flagship pieces of legislation, by the end of parliamentary session in May.

Source: BBC News

17th January 2012


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