Disability benefit thresholds to be revealed next month

13 Dec 11
The government will consult on disability benefit reform in the new year, the minister for disabled people has said.
By Richard Johnstone | 13 December 2011

The government will consult on disability benefit reform in the new year, the minister for disabled people has said.

Maria Miller told the Commons work and pensions committee that the thresholds for qualification under the new Personal Independence Payment would be revealed in January.

The government is replacing the Disability Living Allowance with the PIP in 2013.

Miller said that the reform was ‘principled’ and not simply designed to save money. The government had ‘to make sure that we have a benefit which is sustainable into the future’, she told the MPs yesterday.

The Treasury has said previously that the reform would save around 20% from the cost of DLA payments.

However, Miller told the committee that ‘we haven’t yet finalised all of the assessments in terms of the number of people in receipt of the benefit’.

The PIP will have two components – one to cover daily living costs and one to cover mobility. Awards will be made up of one or both of these, and each component will have two rates – standard and enhanced.

Although details of the assessments have been consulted upon, how the results will be weighted, and the thresholds for payments, have not been.

Miller told MPs that these would be outlined in January.

Asked how the Treasury had calculated that 20% could be saved, she said that this was an estimate of the impact the planned introduction of face-to-face interviews would have.

‘What we thought was that [following] the challenge [from the Treasury] we would look to reform the system.’

This reform will update ‘outdated’ eligibility criteria, and make awards more consistent, the minister added.

‘There’s [currently] an over-reliance, we feel, on an over-complex questionnaire and no review, so that benefits are locked in despite changes in circumstances.

‘The new assessment is based on a modern view of disability. It is clearer and more consistent as disabled people will have been able to talk to a professional about how their condition affects their life.’

Miller also told the committee that the decision to allow disabled people living in residential care to continue to claim the mobility element of the PIP would not require additional savings from the £40bn benefits budget.

This was announced earlier this year after consultation with disabled people and disability organisations.

Miller added: ‘We will be spending the same on the PIP in 2015 as we were spending on Disability Living Allowance last year, and the government remains committed to supporting disabled people.’

The minister’s appearance before the select committee follows the publication of a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the government’s welfare reform plans.

The joint committee raised specific concerns about the impact that the changes included in the Welfare Reform Bill would have on some disabled people.

It recommended that the government take further steps to allow disabled people facing exceptional hardship to be exempted from the overall cap on benefit payments proposed in the legislation.


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