The Green Party in England and Wales has criticised the government’s changes to disability benefits as being insensitive to the real needs and concerns of disabled people.
The switch from the current system of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in April 2013 will coincide with tougher rules upon who can claim the top rate of support, which includes access to lease cars and specially converted vehicles.
Under the new rules, it appears that only those unable to walk more than 20 metres would qualify for support, but the previous distance was 50 metres.
Minister for Disabled People Esther Mcvey seemed to suggest to BBC News yesterday (14 January) that those who could proceed for less than 20 metres would automatically qualify now, but the Department of Work and Pensions has not yet clarified her remarks.
Green Party spokesperson Jonathan Bartley, who is also co-director of the Ekklesia thinktank, commented yesterday: “The new rules on the qualifying distance for the enhanced mobility rate completely undermine what the Government claims the Personal Independence Payment will achieve."
He continued: "It will create greater dependence, not independence. It will mean exclusion rather than inclusion. Instead of saving money it will cost money through huge numbers of appeals, fewer disabled people being able to work and the detrimental impact on Motability related industries.“
As part of a commitment to valuing and empowering people with illness and disabilities, the Green Party says it recognises the vital role that the enhanced mobility rate plays for facilitating as independent and self-determined a life as possible for the disabled.
Mr Bartley continued: “It is now also clear that the changes aren’t targeted at those in need. They also fail to reflect the views of disabled people themselves.
“The fact that there has been no Parliamentary debate on the new rules- something so fundamental and which will have such as devastating impact on so many – underlines how unrepresentative the changes really are.
“The way that the Government has tried to sneak the changes in at the last minute makes it clear that the Government knows this,” he concluded.