Personal Independence Payment: is it fit for purpose?
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Today (8 April 2013), the contentious Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will be rolled out to a handful of areas and will gradually replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA). The Government intends that this new disability benefit will support disabled people to live more independent, active, lives, whether in, or out, of work. People often worry about change – but is PIP fit for purpose?
From the outset, this reform has had a ‘savings first, support second’ approach with an upfront commitment to reduce spend on disability benefits by 20 per cent. The Government has now estimated that over 600,000 fewer people will qualify for PIP by May 2018 than would have qualified for DLA. This in fact looks more like a cut of 28 per cent – and as a result will strip away the very support that enables many disabled people to be independent and in work. This, and the lack of support for carers, is likely to lead to increased pressure on already over-stretched social care budgets and the NHS.
The Government continues to reassure disabled people, disability organisations and representative groups that the change from DLA is needed to better reflect today’s understanding of disability – so why design PIP using the wrong model of disability? Despite fierce opposition, the principles and assessment of PIP have been developed using the medical model, which defines the problem of disability as the individual, the impairment (or condition) they have, and the things they can’t do. In contrast, the more inclusive social model of disability recognises that the lack of accessible technology, public transport or services is what limits/prevents disabled people from fully participating in society – not their impairment. For example, a wheelchair user who cannot access a building because it has steps is not ‘disabled’ by their impairment but rather the lack of a ramp.
PIP is also a policy lone ranger. It doesn’t compliment/support the Government’s own disability strategy Fulfilling Potential, which aims to help disabled people realise their aspirations and overcome barriers. Nor does its more restrictive 20 metre assessment criteria – for automatic entitlement to the enhanced mobility component – follow the recommended 50 metres distance that people are required to be able to walk up to, in order to receive higher rate mobility component in DLA.
Even the Department for Transport’s ‘Inclusive mobility’ guide uses 50 metres as its benchmark as part of its recommendations on how to create an accessible public transport infrastructure and barrier-free pedestrian environment for disabled people. This last minute change will mean fewer disabled people will be able to access the motability scheme, which leases adapted cars, scooters or powered wheelchairs. This is a serious blow to all disabled people already struggling to be independent or stay in work.
Disabled people have already taken more than their ‘fair’ share of cuts – more than any other group. Within the next few years, over 600,000 fewer disabled people will get the support they need from disability benefits and risk plunging their households into poverty as a result.
Read more about the PIP assessment and the impact that it will have on advice services in my blog this week.
For information and advice on PIP visit www.adviceguide.org.uk