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DWP accused of penalising disabled with last-minute changes to mobility payments

January 23, 2013 8:47 PM
By Jon Land in 24dash.com

Thousands of disabled people face losing out on vital benefits after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) made last-minute changes to the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) system, according to a campaign group.

The 'We Are Spartacus' group claims analysis of DWP documents relating to PIP reveals that claimants will only qualify for mobility payments if they are unable to walk more than 20 metres - a shorter distance than the 50 metres outlined in the original consultation draft.

The group also claims that an essential element of the PIP assessment - that claimants be able to undertake each activity 'safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner' - had been removed from the regulations.

The group said: "We are concerned this will mean this essential qualifying definition cannot be considered by an appeal tribunal and could be changed by the DWP with ease, at any time.

"It is clear that those most likely to lose out are physically disabled people with significant walking difficulties who can walk more than 20 metres but less than 50 metres; this problem will be exacerbated by the exclusion of 'reliably' etc from the regulations.

"In fact, DWP's own projections show that by 2018, when implementation is complete, 428,000 fewer disabled people will be in receipt of the enhanced mobility component of PIP than the number that would be expected to be in receipt of the higher rate mobility component of DLA if it remained as it is now.

The group added: "Hundreds of thousands of disabled people whose cars are vital to their life and health stand to lose virtually everything. No car = no independence, no job, no salary (with a consequent risk of homelessness), no social life, plus increased dependence on family members, health and social care services and other benefits to survive.

"This begs the obvious question: how does this cut help disabled people participate in society and contribute by work, volunteering or being involved in their community? Even Paralympians and others held up by the Minister for Disabled People as inspirational role models may have their lives cruelly and unnecessarily restricted."

Baroness Grey-Thompson told the BBC there would be many appeals in response to the move, which would "clog up the system".

"Appeals cost far more than actually just giving disabled people the benefit in the first place," she said.

About 3.2 million people currently receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA), a payment of between £20.55 and £131.50 a week to assist them in leading independent lives.

The Department of Work and Pensions maintains it is making an out-dated benefit much clearer. And that broadly the same number of people will be entitled to extra mobility help.

The Government hopes to save £2bn as a result of the switch from DLA to PIPs.