On Wednesday, disability rights campaigners urged the Lords that the government’s proposed introduction of Personal Independence Payment, to replace the Disability Living Allowance, had serious flaws and requires significant changes.
The website We Are Spartacus, which features the opinions of disabled people on the issue of welfare reform, has submitted an analysis of the PIP regulations to the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.
According to We Are Spartacus:
“In some respects the draft regulations represent an improvement on the consultation draft. However, there are two specific and important areas where the draft regulations differ significantly from the views represented by almost all the organisations that responded to the consultation.
The areas of greatest concern are:
“1. The omission from regulation of the ‘safely, reliably, repeatedly, and in a timely manner’ requirement.
“2. The reduction of the qualifying distance for the enhanced mobility component for getting around from 50 metres to 20 metres.”
In the initial consultation draft, the assessment criteria included the requirement that people be viewed as being able to do an activity only if they could do so ‘safely, reliably, repeatedly, and in a timely manner.’ In the new regulations this has been changed. Now this requirement reads that the consideration is if the activity can be done ‘reliably’.
This has sparked worries. We Are Spartacus insist that it is incredibly important that the requirement specifically mentions safety, reliability and timeliness:
“This qualification is vital because it should ensure the assessor always takes account of issues such as pain, fatigue, breathlessness, nausea etc by building that consideration into the legal framework of the assessment itself.”
It is important that such a qualification has legal force. They point out that:
“The government may intend that healthcare professionals (employed by a mix of contractors and sub-contractors, run by Atos and Capita and thus potentially even more difficult to properly scrutinise than the direct contracting system used in ESA) and decision makers give due regard to the definitions of ‘safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner’, but if they do not have legal force this cannot be guaranteed.”
The other major area of concern is the reduction in the distance that someone is unable to travel; to make them qualified to receive the enhanced mobility component of the Personal Independence Payment. In earlier drafts people who were unable to walk more than 50 metres qualified, but this has been changed to 20 metres.
We Are Spartacus argue that this will have a significant effect on the lives of the disabled:
“The reality is that most wheelchair users are able to walk a little; many can walk 20 metres but not much further. Since 20 metres is too short a distance to accomplish much at all (for example, many people have to walk more than 20 metres to get from their car to their house), many people who can walk a little over this distance will in fact be wheelchair users, at least when they’re not at home.
“Setting the bar so high for the enhanced mobility component of PIP for getting around undermines the objective in paragraph 73 of the Explanatory Memorandum, that PIP should ‘provide a cash contribution to individuals to help them meet the additional costs they face as a result of a long-term health condition or disability’.
“Since powered wheelchairs, scooters, cars, wheelchair accessible vehicles and accessible taxis are all high cost items, the mobility component is extremely important to people with significant difficulty getting around.”
Other disability campaigning groups are also very concerned by such a change and are urging people to write to their MPs to stop it.