Disabled people challenge government on draconian benefit changes

By staff writers
14 Jan 2013

Disabled people have today published 'Emergency Stop', a new report analysing the economic and social impact of the Personal Independence Payment regulations.

The Spartacus group is calling on the Government to ‘go back to the drawing board’ on proposals to replace disability living allowance (DLA), after it buried last-minute changes to criteria which will see thousands more disabled people with mobility difficulties lose out than expected.

The unexpected changes, slipped out following a Ministerial statement last month (13 December 2012), mean the criteria for the enhanced mobility rate of the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), has tightened. The qualification has changed from being able to walk 50 metres to being able to walk 20 metres.

Report co-author Jane Young declared: "This not only condemns thousands more disabled people to the worry of losing out under the new benefit and the isolation this will bring; it also highlights the lie that the Government’s reforms are targeted to support those in need.

"Government protestations about consultation are a nonsense if it takes no notice of what disabled people and their organisations say. Of the 173 consultation responses from organisations on the new PIP, only one suggested the qualifying distance for those who have the most difficulty getting around should perhaps be changed.

"And why has there been no parliamentary debate on such a significant policy change? Is it because government has already decided this is about saving money rather than meeting need?"

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, a paralympian, crossbench peer and member of the all-party parliamentary disability group, strongly backed calls for the government to "think again".

She told the BBC Radio 4 'Today' programme and other outlets this morning (14 January 2013) of the real fear that disabled people would be "ghettoised and excluded from society", under the new rules.

"I'd really like the government to think again. Not just about changing the distance but about actually what the regulations say to ensure that disabled people are really protected," Grey-Thompson said on the BBC Breakfast television programme.

"It could be that over 400,000 disabled people won't get support - and that means they won't get help with transport, maybe getting their children to school or to getting work, and this really radically changes how disabled people are able to integrate into society," she added.

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

We Are Spartacus are also calling on the Government to incorporate people’s ability to undertake tasks ‘reliably, repeatedly, safely and in a timely manner’ into the regulations for PIP, which will ensure both assessments and appeal hearings consistently take account of factors such as pain, fatigue, breathlessness and other symptoms generated by undertaking tasks.

The ‘Emergency Stop’ report analyses figures supplied by the DWP and Motability, the organisation that supplies lease cars and specialist converted vehicles to disabled people claiming the higher mobility rate of Disability Living Allowance.

The analysis estimates that, under PIP, 428,000 fewer working age disabled people will qualify for the higher PIP rate (which allows access to the Motability scheme) by 2018. This could lead to 160,000 fewer Motability cars on the road.

Oxford Economics’ report ‘Economic and social impact of the Motability Car Scheme’ (2010) identified the Motability scheme’s contribution to the economy through car sales, employment generation and tax receipts. The new report shows that welfare reform plans will lead to a domino effect including the loss of:

* 5,692 jobs (from 21,080 jobs to 15,388 jobs in Motability-related industries)
* £544 million contribution to GDP (from around £2 billion to £1.45 billion)
* £126 million in tax receipts

It also highlights that the cost to the public purse of enabling disabled people to get to medical appointments could alone amount to about £8 million.

The group declared: "It’s not just disabled people who will lose out under the Government’s welfare reform plans. Changing from DLA to PIP means fewer people qualifying for Motability cars to the tune of about 50,000 fewer vehicles a year. Less demand means fewer jobs in the motor industry, a lower contribution to GDP and the exchequer, and a knock on effect on the second hand market, which also contributes to the economy."

Ms Young added: "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."

An allied online initiative, War on Welfare, launched a petition seeking an independent cumulative impact assessment of welfare changes just before Christmas. It is already heading towards 14,000 signatories, and is aiming at 100,000.

Charities, churches, academics and experts have all condemned the government's attack on welfare, and policies that target the most vulnerable in society.

* We Are Spartacus 'Emergency Stop' report and campaign - http://wearespartacus.org.uk/emergency-stop/

* 'How disabled people will lose Motability vehicles under new government rules', by Jane Young - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17786

* 'A serious threat to the mobility of disabled and sick people', by Jane Young - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17699

* Spartacus on PIP: http://wearespartacus.org.uk/pip-emergency-act-now/

* Petition: Call for call for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154

* Disability issues on Ekklesia - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/spartacusreport

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