This week sees the phasing in of changes to the disability benefits system, with a nationwide rollout of the changes taking effect over the next few years.
Pursuant to the Welfare Reform Act (2012), with effect from 8 April 2013, Personal Independence Payments (PIP) have begun to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for working people aged between 16 and 64 years with a health condition or disability.
New claimants in the north of England will now be assessed face-to-face by one of the two companies engaged by the Government to carry out the assessments – Atos and Capita, with regular reviews being undertaken thereafter. From June this year, new claimants in other parts of the country will be assessed for PIP rather than DLA and then, in October, some of those currently receiving DLA will start to be assessed under the PIP system, if there is a change in their circumstances. However, the majority of existing DLA claimants will not move over to the new system until at least 2015, when they will be invited to apply for the new payment.
The Government argues that the circumstances of some individuals can change over time and that changes to the system are required given that 70% of claimants get DLA for life without reassessment, receiving between £20.55 and £77.45 per week for the care component of DLA and between £20.55 and £54.05 for the mobility component of DLA.
Those that are assessed as eligible for PIP will receive between £53.00 and £79.15 per week for the daily living component of PIP and between £21.00 and £55.25 per week for the mobility component of PIP.
On the basis of government projections, it is estimated by the charity, Scope, that the new, tighter eligibility criteria will lead to 600,000 losing financial support and asserted that the changes have been introduced to save money. The Chief Executive of Scope, Richard Hawkes, makes the point that the costs of daily living can be significantly more expensive for those with medical conditions and disabilities as they may well incur extra mobility and heating costs, for example, and may also be affected by the further benefit reforms that have been introduced. Richard Hawkes has stated: “If the Government is serious about a Paralympics legacy where disabled people can fulfil their potential, they urgently need to reconsider their approach to welfare.”