Government changes to disability benefit test
Intense campaigning leads to a change which will benefit people with fluctuating conditions
6th February 2013 - Depending on your viewpoint the Coalition Government has either listened to campaigners or bowed to pressure from them, and made a vital change to the way people will be assessed for the new disability benefit, PIP.
The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is due to replace DLA (Disability Living Allowance) and is designed to help people with the extra costs resulting from their disability.
Its introduction begins with a trial in April 2013 in Cheshire, Cumbria, Merseyside, North East England and North West England. When a DLA claim is received from this area, it will be treated as a PIP claim instead.
The changes just introduced in an amendment to the original regulations will mean assessors for the benefit will now be required to consider whether claimants can perform activities "to an acceptable standard, safely, repeatedly, and in a reasonable time period" which will be fairer for people with fluctuating conditions.
The MS Society has been a lead organisation urging the government to include the terms in legislation and has fought hard to secure the change.
Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the Multiple Sclerosis Society says in a press release: "We are delighted that the government has finally listened to our concerns about this issue. This is a crucial change that means the assessments for PIP will better recognise the needs of people with fluctuating conditions such as MS."
The Government says the concept of doing activities 'to an acceptable standard, safely, repeatedly and in a reasonable time period' has always been integral to its PIP assessment but it's agreed to include the phrase to make the policy intent clear in legislation.
Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey says in a press statement: "Our intention has always been the same - we want to target support at those who need it most. We have always said that we will not just look at whether individuals can carry out activities but also the manner in which they do so.
"I know that disabled people and their representatives feel strongly that this important concept is set out in law and I am happy to do this."
Leonard Cheshire Disability’s chief executive Clare Pelham says in a media comment: "We welcome the Government’s decision to make these regulations very clear. It is important to use plain language and not gobbledygook. Everyone now understands that the assessment will be based on what a person can do "safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a reasonable time period." If all Government language were this clear, there would be no need for plain English campaigns."
Possible further changes
PIP regulations are currently being considered by Parliament and will be finalised before 8th April 2013.
Campaigners are hoping for further changes. They are angry at a decision to alter a key mobility criteria in the assessment from 50 metres to 20 metres.
Simon Gillespie says: "We remain extremely concerned about the strictness of the mobility criteria for the benefit. If people can walk just 20m - even using aids such as sticks - they won’t qualify for the enhanced rate of the benefit, and could lose up to £1800 a year, as well as their Motability vehicle."
The MS Society is now urging the government to look again at the 20m element of the assessments. It says this was originally due to be 50m and the change was made in December with no consultation.