Thursday, 13 December 2012

PIP, a mobile disaster



Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being replaced by a new benefit called Personal Independent Payment (PIP). Surrounded in controversy, the government has said it aims to save 20% expenditure and it is expected that 330,000 disabled people will lose their benefit entirely by October 2015 and 607,000 by May 2018 ( see DWP impact assessment Dec 13 2012).

DLA is an essential benefit. Paid to both working and non working people it helps cover the extra costs of disability. It comes in two components. One covers mobility and is paid to people who have trouble getting around and the other covers personal care. Each has different rates to allow for differing levels of need.

The mobility component is particularly important as it can be used in the Motability scheme whereby instead of receiving cash the disabled person can lease a car for 3 years. This is vital for people who need larger or adapted cars for their wheelchairs or disability equipment, which can be costly. The scheme may also be used to lease electric wheelchairs which are not always provided on the NHS and can also be prohibitively expensive.

The mobility component comes in 2 rates and only the higher is eligible for the Motability scheme. The same will be true for PIP, with a standard and enhanced rate.

The problem is that the goalposts have been moved and the criteria to qualify for the enhanced rate severely restricted.

From now on the only people who will qualify for the enhanced rate are those who can "stand and move" less than 20m (around 60 feet). This includes with the use of aids such as a prosthetic, crutches or a walking stick.
Anyone who can move further than this distance will only qualify for the standard rate, even if they then need to use a wheelchair for longer distances.
Furthermore, anyone who can "stand and move" more than 50m becomes ineligible for the benefit completely.

This is a huge change and far more strict than before. The various qualifying distances for ESA and DLA are 50 and 100m, not 20 and 50m.
20m is a very short distance indeed:

A bendy bus is roughly 20m long...

20m does not get me from my front door to the garage...


To give you an idea of what this might mean, take someone who is able to walk with a walking stick around their house and from their front door to the road or garage (eg as above) to their car but would have to use a wheelchair once they arrived at their destination.
At the moment they would get high rate DLA. They would qualify for Motability and could get an adapted car.
Under PIP they only get standard rate as they can "move" more than 20m. They lose Motability and their adapted car.

It is expected that at least 480,000 people will lose their entitlement to high rate DLA of which an estimated 100,000 are reliant on Motability. Remember that these are disabled people with high mobility impairments deemed under DLA "virtually unable to walk".

See Jane Young's excellent blog for more details.

The Reasoning and issues:

The reasoning behind this is strange to say the least.

  • 20 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence in the home such as the ability to move between rooms. 
  • 50 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence such as the ability to get from a car park to the supermarket.  
  • 50 to 200 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to walk in order to achieve a higher level of independence such as the ability to get around a small supermarket.  
The 20-50m case:

If a disabled person can walk from 20 up to 50 metres they are deemed not to need enhanced benefit because they have "a basic level of independence". This is characterised as the ability to walk from a car park to a supermarket.

We now enter the realm of Kafka.
Since the disabled person receives standard benefit, they are no longer eligible for Motability and may no longer HAVE a car in the first place. If they can only walk 50m it is unlikely they will be able to use public transport.
Having proudly walked "independently" 50m to the supermarket from the car park, one wonders what they are to do next. One also wonders how on earth they are going to get back.

If they need assistance or a wheelchair at this point, then quite frankly they should be getting enhanced mobility benefit. It is ludicrous to say otherwise. The cost of the car, wheelchair or help in this scenario easily justifies it.

The 50-200m case:

Someone who is only able to walk 50 to 200m gets nothing at all despite this entire distance being necessary to get around the supermarket. This begs the question of how they get to and from the supermarket if their entire "walking allowance" is used up shopping there.

I strongly feel instead that these people should qualify for the standard rate to enable them to get to and from the shop, since they are by definition unable to walk there. This will help them afford a taxi, car or mobility scooter.

No opportunity to discuss

The government has run two consultations on their criteria. The mobility criteria were harshly criticised and felt to be far too strict. However far from being improved, they have actually been made worse.
While the cut off distance was simply 50m in the draft, it is now 20 and 50m, which will disallow far more people. Furthermore the government has indicated that it will not now accept any further changes and is determined to press ahead as it is. This is clearly wrong since they have introduced with no warning a major change with no opportunity for discussion.

In summary:

I felt that even a 50m cut off was prohibitively strict. But what we have here is a disaster and will ruin people's lives and independence. We WILL see seriously mobility impaired people losing their benefits and their cars, including wheelchair users if they have the temerity to be able to walk tiny distances.
This activity needs to be looked at again, and soon.


If you want to ACT, please go to this blog which will tell you how to contact your MP with good ideas of how to drive the message home. This needs to be done so soon as time is running out with Parliament breaking up by Friday Dec 21st.

EDIT: I originally said the reasoning was "strange". Upon further reflection I have come to the conclusion that a decision has been made that the only people who will get enhanced mobility are those who cannot walk outside AT ALL however short a distance.

This is an incredibly harsh criteria. Many people can walk very short distances. This is why we have blue badge spaces. They may not be able to walk further than that and may need a wheelchair if further away or for longer trips. These people will face very high costs, many will rely on cars for transport, and will face poverty or being housebound with the removal of high rate DLA.

My story:

This is a subject close to my heart. 10 years ago, with a deteriorating muscle condition, I started putting money aside from my mobility DLA, and, when the time came, bought a good electric wheelchair. Thanks to this I was able to continue with my PhD without fuss or interruption and later get a good job.
Under these new PIP regulations I would not have qualified for enhanced mobility and would not have been able to afford my wheelchair. I would have been housebound and would never have been able to accomplish what I did.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Autumn Statement and Disability Benefits

You might quite understandably be mistaken in thinking that disabled people came out quite safe and sound from this year's autumn statement. After all our chancellor announced that although restrictions were going to have to be made to most welfare benefits, disabled people and carers would be supported and disability/carer benefits would not be affected.

The problem is that in the next breath he announced that, along with most other working age benefits, ESA would be included in the restriction to a 1% annual growth for the next 3 years. Well below the rate of inflation this amounts to a cut in real terms.

ESA is mostly paid to disabled people who are too sick to work. To qualify for this benefit they have to have undergone rigorous testing and passed the much maligned WCA (Work Capability Assessment) administered by ATOS and been classed as unfit for work. Some are considered to be able to work again at some time in the future (possibly years). These are put in the WRAG (Work Related Activity Group). Others are considered too ill or disabled ever to work again and are put in the Support Group.

So how can the chancellor be promising disability benefits be exempt when ESA is included in the cuts?

Well turning to the small print of the Treasury Costings (p33) we see the following:

“The following benefits, tax credits and payments will be up-rated by 1 per cent for 3 years from 2013-14:
• The main elements of Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, applicable amounts for Housing Benefit;
It will not apply to the premia within these benefits relating to disability, pensioners, and caring responsibilities, the support group component of ESA, or the disability elements in tax credits, which will be uprated as usual.”

A claim for ESA comprises:
  • A main element of ESA (the bulk of the benefit)
  • A Support Group component or WRAG component (Anyone unfit for work gets one of these after passing the WCA)
  • Any relevant disability premiums (not everyone qualifies for these)
So what does this mean?

For both WRAG and Support group claimants the main element part will only rise by 1%.
For WRAG claimants the WRAG component will only rise by 1%
For Support Group claimants the Support component will rise by inflation.
For both WRAG and Support Group claimants any disability premiums will rise by inflation.

  • WRAG claimants who do not receive disability premiums will see their benefit restricted to 1% growth for 3 years.
  • All Support Group claimants and those WRAG claimants who receive disability premiums will see their benefit restricted to a growth slightly higher than 1% but still significantly lower than inflation. In fact it works out at approximately 1.4% according to DRUK.

ESA claimants are seriously ill and disabled people who have fairly and genuinely been found unfit for work. The statement that disabled people will be supported and disability benefits will be unaffected is totally and unequivocally untrue. It is high time that someone stood up and said so.