From ‘The Guardian', 21 October 2011 (story by social affairs editor Randeep Ramesh)
Disability charity Scope fears flawed assessment for Personal Independence Payment will repeat ‘fitness to work' chaos
As many as 2 million disabled people risk losing welfare support because of the introduction of a flawed assessment scheme that means billions of pounds will not be paid to those who need it most, warns the disability charity Scope.
The charity says the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which the government is introducing to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), has a failed regime of eligibility criteria. Scope is backing weekend protests by disability groups who it says are the hardest hit by government cuts.
There are 1.8 million working-age DLA recipients – and Scope says all will be affected by the government's proposal to reassess recipients using a new work assessment and fewer rates of benefit. At least 600,000 people will lose out because the lowest rates of support for care are being cut and almost all other working age claimants will be wrongly assessed, says the charity.
The government's own figures show that to meet the Treasury savings targets, another £366m has to be found. There is concern amongst campaigners that the new assessment, which will reassess all new and existing claimants who are of working age, will be used to target disabled people who receive the middle and higher rates of care payments.
Scope says the government is introducing a tick-box medical assessment that “won't help it achieve the very aims it has set out, and could see a repeat of the problems it has faced over its fitness to work test, the Work Capability Assessment, which has seen thousands of people appealing decisions by assessors, with 40% found in favour of the claimant”.
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said the assessment should take into account how a disabled person's daily life is affected by barriers and extra costs such as poor housing, lack of public transport and a lack of a circle of friends or relatives
“We are concerned that the new assessment the government is planning to use is flawed because it doesn't take into consideration all the barriers that disabled people face in daily life. Without understanding the extent of barriers people face, the government has no hope to overcome them and genuinely enable people to take part in daily life.
“We believe that the alternative assessment we have designed will give disabled people the opportunity to address the barriers they face and therefore drive down costs in the long-term, rather than placing a sticking plaster over them.”
A DWP spokesman said the figures were speculative. He added: “At the moment over 70% of people get DLA for life without any systematic checks to see if their condition has changed. This is why we are introducing the Personal Independence Payment with a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews – something lacking in the current system – to make sure people are getting the right levels of support”.