DISABLED PEOPLE AGAINST CUTS (DPAC)
Briefing Notes DLA Abolition.
Background to the Abolition of Disability Living Allowance
Disability Living Allowance was introduced in 1992 to provide support with the extra costs of living that disabled people face.
In the Budget (June 2010) and Comprehensive Spending Review (October 2010) the new Condem government announced its intention to arbitrarily cut spending on Disability Living Allowance by 20 per cent or remove eligibility from half a million disabled people.
In December 2010, government then published its detailed plans to abolish Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and introduce Personal Independence Payment (PIP), for those of working age from 2013-14. This is in spite of the fact that the fraud rate is only 0.5%.
The government said that the changes to the assessment and eligibility would be the means through which a 20 per cent cut in spend and recipient numbers would be achieved. By 2016 this cut was intended to amount to savings of £2.6bn annually.
The government has said that it wants a more ‘objective’ assessment a statement driven by the political goal of lowering the spend on DLA, as there is little evidence of unnecessary payments: fraud rates for DLA are low at only 0.5%. This indicates there is sufficient rigor and objectivity under the present DLA assessment system. In addition only about 50% of DLA claimants are successful and in 2008 49% of appeals were turned down, which also suggests that the assessment is rigorous.
“The new benefit will have two components, linked to a range of activities that will be considered in the new assessment. One will be awarded on the basis of the individual’s ability to get around (the mobility component), the other on their ability to carry out other key activities necessary to be able to participate in daily life (the daily living component).”
The government continue to echo the notion that support should go to those “who face the greatest need”. However they do not justify how they intend to equate ‘greatest need’ with enabling disabled people to fully participate within society and DPAC has concerns that any such false distinction will simply further the notions of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ disabled.
The policy goal which frames the PIP assessment criteria DPAC would argue is totally flawed. We believe that the proposal for PIP is driven by a cost cutting agenda and a predetermined goal of cutting spend by 20 per cent, rather than any kind of objective assessment of need of support to cover disabled people’s extra costs of living.
Maria Miller has once more stated that the cost of supporting disabled people is unsustainable but that “The Coalition Government is committed to helping disabled people to exercise choice and control over their lives and ” “We have been absolutely clear that our welfare reform plans are designed to protect people in the most vulnerable situations, including disabled people.”
However in reality both the work capability assessment for ESA and the proposed planned changes of replacing DLA with a Personal Independence Payment are simply designed to reduce the number of people whose disability is recognised by this government.
We further believe that government ministers have continually created confusion over DLA by linking it to a goal of encouraging people to be in work. DLA is not an out-of-work benefit and people can receive it whether in or out of paid work. For many disabled people DLA is what allows them to be able to work and without it they will no longer be able to continue in employment.
Assessment development group
The government formed an ‘Assessment Development Group’ to design the assessment, comprising The government’s ‘Assessment Development Group’ which drew up the draft assessment has ten health and social care professionals plus government officials, yet only one person representing disabled people. Since the numbers of health professionals and officials heavily outweighed the number of disabled people present, it is not surprising that the group was able to come to a ‘broad agreement’ on the proposed assessment.
If more disabled people had had been present it is doubtful that such a medicalised/ functional ability type of assessment would have been agreed on. Disabled people should have been fully involved in this decision making process at the early stage of discussion, i.e. as members of the Assessment Development Group in at least an equal number of disabled people representing disabled people’s organisations as government and other officials.
Article 4 of the UNCRPD states; the general obligation on government to consult with disabled people, before not after decisions or policies are changed.
This lack of early involvement is compounded by the government ignoring the concerns raised by disabled people and their organisations via consultation responses by refusing to amend the Welfare Reform Bill sufficiently to address these concerns.
PIP components and eligibility assessment
Personal Independence Payment will have two components:
- daily living component
- mobility component
Each component has two rates rather than the existing three rates:
- daily living component standard rate
- daily living component enhanced rate
- mobility component standard rate
- mobility component enhanced rate
PIP Eligibility Assessment
Activities for daily living and mobility
The new assessment will cover activities for daily living and mobility. To qualify for PIP disabled people will need to score enough points in the following daily living and/or mobility activities:
Daily Living Activities:
- planning and buying food and drink
- preparing and cooking
- taking nutrition
- managing medication and monitoring health conditions
- managing prescribed therapies other than medication
- washing, bathing and grooming
- managing toilet needs or incontinence
- dressing and undressing
- communicating with others
The mobility activities:
- planning and following a journey
- moving around
The number of points scored will dictate whether a claimant is assessed as having a ‘limited ability’ or ‘severely limited ability’ to carry out daily living activities and/or mobility activities. The score will also dictate whether a claimant will receive the standard or enhanced rate of the Daily Living component.
PROBLEMS WITH PIP
- In order to receive PIP disabled people must be aged between 16 and 65 years and satisfy the daily living and/or mobility activities test for 3 months prior to claiming and be likely to continue to satisfy this test for a period of at least 6 months after claiming.
- It remains very unclear what will happen to anyone who becomes 65 and is in receipt of the mobility component of PIP as they would have to claim Attendance Allowance which has no mobility component. (currently anyone in receipt of DLA mobility component who becomes 65 continues to receive this). DPAC is therefore concerned that any older disabled people will lose their independence simply because they have reached the age of 65.
- There is also no clarity about what will happen when someone is admitted to hospital for any length of time but with the proposals for PIP as they now stand it would seem that even a very short stay in hospital could result in someone losing their mobility cars, plus any equipment such as wheelchairs or hoists and other essential equipment they may be using PIP to pay for.
- Government guidance on DLA states that ‘Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is not based on your disability but the needs arising from it’. This is not reflected in PIP and the assessment involves a rigid and crude set of questions which examines what a disabled person cannot or can do from a prescribed list that only covers basic mobility activities and daily living activities. This method of assessment follows the medical model of disability.
- The Work Capability Assessment was described by Professor Harrington as ‘impersonal and mechanistic’  and has resulted in many flawed decisions, which have been over turned on appeal. It is deeply worrying that the government appears be adopting a similar rigid assessment for PIP.
- The estimate for ESA tribunal appeals for 2012-2013 is £50 million and the backlog of cases is so long that tribunals are sitting even on Sundays so the logic behind also adopting a similarly flawed assessment process for PIP remains unclear to DPAC.
- The cost of changing from DLA to PIP has also been estimated to be £65 million and on top of that there are plans to regularly re-assess even claimants whose condition will never improve. Not only does this seem a waste of money but it will add unfair additional stress to the lives of people who are already struggling to overcome the disabling barriers put in their way on a daily basis.
- DLA acts as a passport to other welfare benefits and concessions such as the Blue Badge, loss of which will increase the impact of losing DLA. We feel the government have failed to consider how these passporting functions will be replaced if PIP is introduced.
- Higher rate care component of DLA has passported disabled people to eligibility for funding for care and support from the Independent Living Fund although this is also now closed to new applicants and due to close completely by 2015.
- Being in receipt of higher and middle rate care components of DLA has also passported disabled people to additional disability premiums in both Income Support and Housing Benefits. These premiums are now also planned to be abolished with no clear guidance on what these additional amounts of funding will be replaced by or how people will become eligible for any additional amounts of basic benefits.
- Many disabled people will live in increased poverty because of the new assessment. The government has not sufficiently tested what the impact on those losing DLA will be. In particular the cumulative impact of benefit changes remains unknown.
- By depriving disabled people of a much needed benefit we believe the government is failing in their duty under the Equality Act and its responsibilities under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- The assessment of mobility impairment is ridiculously crude and neither allows for cumulative impact, fluctuation in factors such as stiffness and pain, nor for factors such as steps. A person may be able to walk 50 or 200 metres on one day but none on another. They may be able to walk short distances on a flat surface but be unable to walk up and down steps to access buses and tube trains safely. An assessment of these factors is needed.
- Many claimants with Neuro-diverse and Mental Health conditions also say that while they can plan a journey the stress and anxiety involved in making such a planned journey has simply been ignored and that they can physically only carry out the planned journey if they have support from another person to do so. This is another group of disabled people whose real needs will be ignored by changes to PIP>
- Claimants with conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis may be able to complete a one off physical task, but completing several tasks over the course of a day can have a cumulative effect and increase pain and immobility to totally debilitating levels. Additional consideration of the impact of pain and fatigue is essential.
- Again many claimants with Neuro-diverse and Mental Health conditions can physically cook a meal but find that to do so is stressful and exhausting for them so in reality they are not able to prepare and cook a meal.
- Disabled people are already twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people. Far from the intention to ‘improve the support for disabled people and better enable them to lead full, active and independent lives’, these proposals will lead to an increase in disabled people’s poverty and isolation. Therefore DPAC is strongly opposed to the introduction of PIP and the eligibility assessment.
- The government’s work and pensions select committee recognised that many more disabled people need to be lifted out of poverty and recommended a DLA awareness campaign.
- DLA supports disabled people to become more equal and independent. Instead of attacking DLA, which supports independence (including helping to overcome barriers that prevent some people taking up employment), government should be doing more to stimulate demand in the economy so that jobs are available and to tackle discrimination by employers by vigorously enforcing the Equality Act 2010.