Plans to replace the Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments will penalise people with mobility problems and should be rethought, disability campaigners said today.
A report by pressure group We Are Spartacus says stricter eligibility criteria mean more than 400,000 people will lose higher benefit rates and access to the Motability scheme, which helps them obtain a car, scooter or powered wheelchair.
The changes to the eligibility criteria were included in a ministerial statement last month. They cut the distance for the assessment of mobility problems from being able to stand and walk 50 metres to being able to stand and walk 20 metres.
According to the Emergency stop report, this ‘could prevent the majority of disabled people with severe walking difficulties from qualifying for the enhanced mobility component of PIP’. It calls for the 50m limit to be reinstated and for the regulations to specify that in order to be considered able to walk the specified distance, the claimant must be able to do so reliably and fairly comfortably.
An analysis included in the report estimated that 428,000 fewer working-age disabled people would be eligible for the higher PIP rate by 2018 as well as entitlement to help under the Motability scheme.
Restricting access to this scheme would have wider economic effects, the campaigners said. Estimates included in the report predict 5,700 jobs in Motability-related industries could be lost as well as a £544m contribution to gross domestic product and a £126m contribution to tax revenues.
‘In the meantime, disabled people will be less independent, less likely to be able to get or keep a job, more likely to give up self-employment and less able to care for their children or support other family members,’ We Are Spartacus said.
The campaigners add that the government’s insistence that it had listened to the views of disabled people was ‘nonsense’. Of the 173 organisations that responded to the consultation on PIP, only one suggested changing the qualifying distance for people with mobility problems.
But the Department for Work & Pensions said: ‘We received strong feedback in our consultation that the “Moving around” activity in the final PIP assessment criteria was unclear, which is why we've clarified this in the regulations and introduced the 20 metre measure. It is not a tightening of the assessment – our modelling shows that, after this change, the number of people receiving the enhanced rate of the mobility component as a result of the “Moving around” activity will be broadly the same.
‘The intention of the criteria remains the same – to make sure support is targeted at those who need it most, by making sure those who receive the enhanced rate of the Mobility component are those who face the greatest barriers to mobility.’