The controversial reforms in benefits for disabled people will take effect as of the 8th of April 2013; many people aged between 16 and 64 years old (people of eligible working age) are scheduled to lose their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in place of receiving a Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Both benefit systems have good intentions at heart, they both seek to ease the financial strain caused by disability on families and individuals, but there are key differences between the two that anyone affected by disability in the UK needs to be aware of.
What Was Wrong With DLA?
The feature of Disability Living Allowance that caused the most outcries was its complete lack of means testing. To claim DLA you would be required to fill out a form on which you would state your illness/disability and that would be the end of it. Opponents of the DLA claim this has opened up the benefit platform to false claims and improper pay-outs.
Leaning on assessments form GP’s seems on the surface like an ideal solution but the reality is GP’s are both busy, and not specialists. Being responsible for a whole community’s needs, GP’s rarely have the time to dedicate to one potentially delicate case in order to properly assess a patients needs in relation to mobility and care; especially with instances of mental illness. Under the DLS system only 6% of claims are assessed by a specialist in the field.
The Rise in Claims
In recent years DLA claims have risen as other forms of sickness and disability claims have dropped; the number of people claiming has roughly trebled since the early 1990’s. While this doesn’t in itself prove there is anything untoward about the legitimacy of the claims it does raise questions as to why there has been such a dramatic increase.
There are news sources out there that will pervert the information to convince the public that claimants are unjustly claiming benefits, this is false. The reality is most people who claim DLA are using it because, through illness and disability, they need extra financial help to get by; that is why it exists, but because the benefit is not means tested and the majority are lifelong there will be people who have slipped through the cracks. The PIP will first assess the health of new claimants and then work backwards to older claimants to ensure they are still in need and are receiving the right kind of help.
The Need for Change
At first glance the reforms look cruel but the fact is that if money is being spent on people who don’t need it there is less to go around for the people who truly do; it is imperative to the functioning of society that the government looks after its most vulnerable peoples and the only way to do that is to ensure there is enough help available. The overall aim of the scheme is to reduce spending on disability claims not to draconian levels but to reduce expenditure to the level it was in 2009/10 and cease the continual soar in spending.
What Is PIP
The Personal Independence Payment will be based entirely on the individual; the claimant will be assessed on how well they carry out essential everyday activities and the payment they receive will reflect their proficiency at this. They will be subject to a face to face consultation and their case will be reviewed by a specialist.
They will be assessed in the areas of daily living abilities, health and mobility. The scheme will consider what care is being provided and what is needed, ensuring all the needs of the individual are being met, and making sure they have the correct mobility equipment. The information collated will inform the decision of whether: the claimant is eligible for PIP, at what rate they are eligible and for what amount of time. Once assessed, the money will be paid into a bank account for the claimant to be able to access so they can receive the help as and when they need it.
We as a society are responsible for ensuring the care of our most vulnerable citizens, though it is controversial to reform benefit for disabled and ill people PIP hopes to offer more tailor made care to individuals.
Written by Emma Smith on behalf of JF Aldous, a local disability shop in Essex, Chelmsford and Colchester who source the highest quality products including mobility scooters and wheelchairs from leading manufacturers at competitive prices.