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Navigating the NHS

New health and disability benefits

What to expect from the reformed welfare system
By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson
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9th March 2012 - The Coalition's changes to the benefits system, frequently described as 'controversial', have become law in England, Scotland and Wales.

However, consultation is still underway to determine who will qualify for the new disability payments.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has called it: "an historic step in the biggest welfare revolution in over 60 years". Disability groups say the Government has not looked at the cumulative effect of all the changes currently underway and say they're "disappointed".

So what does it mean for the millions of people with health conditions and disabilities who currently receive benefits?

DLA scrapped

From April 2013, Disability Living Allowance (DLA), designed to help people with the extra costs resulting from their disability, will be replaced with a Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

PIPs will remain a non means-tested benefit. It's proposed all 3.2 million people receiving DLA at the moment, both those in work and out of work, will be reassessed.

Just like DLA, the new Personal Independence Payment will have two separate components - a daily living component and a mobility component. However, unlike DLA which is paid at a low, middle and high rate, both components of the new PIP will be payable at only two rates - standard or enhanced.

Still consulting

Rebecca Rennison, policy and parliamentary manager, at Leonard Cheshire Disability told us the difficulty at this stage is the Government is still consulting before deciding the criteria for the new benefit: "We get people contacting us, wanting to know what it will mean for them and actually there are no definite answers yet, we can't say who will and who won't get the new benefit."

She says there are some areas where she expects there will be positive changes: "DLA was introduced in 1992 and some impairments were hardly recognised in the early '90s, like mental health or autism, so hopefully there will be some improvements in those areas, particularly around mobility support, but it's hard to have faith in it [the new PIP] when overall you know the government's aiming to save money."

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) consultation runs until 30th April 2012.

ESA

Some people are still receiving Incapacity Benefit (IB) but since 31st January 2011 those unable to work because of illness or disability have had to claim Employment and Support Allowance instead.

Jobcentre Plus has been writing to claimants of Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance or Income Support paid on disability grounds, to tell them their claim is going to be reviewed, a process which is expected to be completed in 2014.

The charity Rethink Mental Illness says its biggest concern is with the new ESA. Antonia Borneo, policy manager, told us: "People are being migrated from the previous benefit onto ESA through the Work Capability Assessment & we have major concerns about the Work Capability Assessment and we don't think it's fit for purpose at all."

This new system is under independent review by Professor Malcolm Harrington to ensure it works as well as possible.

Antonia Borneo says: "The government believes the most vulnerable people will be identified and will be taken care of but actually that will only happen if the assessment process is fair and it's well designed."

She doesn't think it's been set up appropriately and says 40% of people with mental health problems who fight the findings of the Work Capability Assessment are winning on appeal.

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