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When Personal Independence Payments (PIP) were proposed, to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claimed it had acted in consultation with disabled people. Thanks to the work of campaigners like Sue Marsh, that consultation was exposed as a sham which completely ignored the overwhelming opposition expressed.
To add insult to injury, after the consultation had ended the DWP moved the goalposts. It announced that whereas under DLA a person who couldn’t walk more than 50 metres was entitled to help with their mobility, under PIP that distance would be reduced to 20 metres.
This change, the government acknowledged, would result in 428,000 fewer people being eligible for help with their mobility. So, perversely, Personal Independence Payments may cause many disabled people to become effectively housebound and lose their independence.
Disability campaigner Jane Young says: “We are relieved that the DWP is to reconsider. Our concern in relation to the 20-metre distance is that disabled people with limited walking ability, who are dependent on their Motability car or other independent mobility solution funded by their allowance, would lose their eligibility and be unable to make essential journeys – to work, to visit their GP, to hospital appointments or to social activities. We fear many would effectively become isolated in their own homes, with all the implications of that for their mental and physical health.
Whilst the Government’s announcement is extremely positive, we remain cautious. We need to make sure that the views of disabled people and their organisations are taken seriously and that the ultimate decision focuses on meeting the needs of disabled people rather than being narrowly focused on cutting the cost of the benefit. The ability of disabled people to participate in society depends on support for independent mobility; this should be the focus of this fresh consultation.”
Jane is urging anyone who may be affected by these changes to respond to the consultation, which closes on 5 August 2013, and if you need any advice or assistance to respond, Jane will be pleased to help. She is also asking anyone who does respond to send a copy to her, to ensure that the DWP cannot misrepresent the responses they receive, as they did with the first consultation.
© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeadenTweet