British Paralympic stars have voiced anger about the imminent disappearance of the Disability Living Allowance, a benefit they say provided them with vital support during training. The athletes have expressed concern that they may not be eligible for its replacement – the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – which will be available to fewer claimants when it is introduced in April with tightened qualification criteria.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA), worth between £20 and £131.50 a week, is designed to help disabled people meet the extra costs of disability-related care and mobility. It is not means-tested and is available to those in or out of work.
The new system is designed to cut payments by £2.24bn annually by 2015-16, resulting in 500,000 fewer claimants. More than 2 million people will begin to be reassessed from this April to gauge their eligibility for PIP.
Sophie Christiansen, who has cerebral palsy, won three gold medals at the Games in dressage. She is worried that under the new criteria, she may find herself no longer eligible for the benefit, depending on how assessors judge her ability to get around.
One of the questions the PIP assessment will ask is whether a claimant is able to walk 20 metres, with or without walking aids. If a claimant is able to walk that distance they will score no points on that part of the test, and may not be eligible for mobility payments that can be used to help pay for a car. “Technically, I could walk over 20 metres but I’d be tired. If I lost my mobility [payment] I would lose my car. The train station is more than 20 metres away. I can’t walk to the train station and I can’t get my scooter on it. What am I going to do?” she said in an interview with Channel 4’s Dispatches, to be broadcast on Monday night.
Christiansen expressed anger at the widespread misunderstanding of the purpose of the benefit, which is designed to support people who are in work as well as those who are not working. “We use this money in order to get out the house, not think, oh, we’ve got a comfy life here, living on benefits,” she said.
The government’s assessment of the impact of reform suggests that over the next five years more than 400,000 people will no longer qualify for the higher rate mobility allowance payment that makes it possible for them to lease adapted Motability cars.
25th February 2013