1. ITV Report

How will changes to disability benefit affect you?

The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will begin to be replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people aged 16 to 64 from today.

When will the changes affect new claimants?

  • PIP will be introduced for new claims in Merseyside, North West England, Cumbria, Cheshire and North East England from today. During this period new claimants in all other parts of the country will continue to claim Disability Living Allowance.
  • In June 2013 new claims for Personal Independence Payment will be taken from all parts of the country.

When will the changes affect existing claimants?

  • PIP is being introduced in stages over a number of years. There are no automatic entitlements to PIP, even where an indefinite or lifetime DLA award has been made.
  • From October 2013, if an individual reports a change in how a health condition or disability affects them, they reach the end of an existing award of DLA, or they are approaching the age of 16, they will be invited to apply for PIP.
  • From 2015, all remaining DLA claimants will be invited to make a PIP claim.
  • There are no current plans to replace DLA for children under 16 and people aged 65 and over who are already receiving benefits.

How will the Personal Independence Payment work?

  • Personal Independence Payment will have a Daily Living component and a Mobility component. Each component will have two rates - standard and enhanced. The proposed benefit rates for 2013/14 are:
  • Daily Living enhanced rate: £79.15
  • Daily Living standard rate: £53.00
  • Mobility enhanced rate: £55.25
  • Mobility standard rate: £21.00

What are the rates for the Disability Living Allowance?

  • There are three rates for the care component (low, middle and high) and two for the mobility component (low and high). They are currently:
  • Care component lowest: £21
  • Care component middle: £53
  • Care component highest: £79.15
  • Mobility component lower: £21
  • Mobility component higher: £55.25

How does the application process work?

  • Step one - Thinking about claiming: Information about PIP will be available from a range of sources, including online, via leaflets and through support organisations. This will explain the eligibility criteria and help the claimant decide if they want to claim PIP. Existing DLA claimants will be contacted individually to ask if they want to claim PIP.
  • Step two - Making a claim: Claimants (or those supporting them) will need to phone the Department for Work and Pensions to make begin a PIP claim. This will involve an identity check and some basic questions. Claimants will then be sent a form to complete.
  • Step three - Telling your story: Claimants will need to complete a form to explain how their disability affects their daily. Supporting evidence can accompany this form when it is returned to the Department for Work and Pensions.
  • Step four - Assessment: Claim details, the completed form and supporting evidence are passed to a health professional. Most claimants will be asked to attend a face-to-face consultation, unless a decision can be reached on the basis of written evidence.
  • Step five - Decision: A decision will be make on entitlement, including the level and length of award, after all the information is reviewed.

How will the assessment process (step four above) work?

  • Claimants will be assessed on 12 activities. They will receive a points score for each activity, depending on how well they can carry them out and the help they need to do so. The total score will determine whether a claimant is entitled to benefits, and if so, whether at the standard or enhanced rate.
  • The 12 activities are: Preparing food, taking nutrition, managing therapy or monitoring a health condition, washing and bathing, managing toilet needs or incontinence, dressing and undressing, communicating verbally, reading and understanding signs, symbols and words, engaging with people face-to-face, making budgeting decisions, planning and following journeys, moving around.
  • For example: The assessment will consider a claimant's physical ability to move around without severe breathlessness, pain or fatigue. They will be scored on whether they can:
  • Stand and then move more than 200 metres - 0 points
  • Stand and then move more than 50 metres but no more than 200 metres - 4 points
  • Either aided or unaided, can stand and then move unaided more than 20 metres but no more than 50 metres - 8 points
  • Either aided or unaided, can stand and then move using an aid or appliance more than 20 metres but no more than 50 metres - 10 points
  • Stand and then move more than one metre but no more than 20 metres - 12 points
  • Cannot stand or more at all or more more than one metre - 12 points

Why is the Government making these changes?

  • Reforms to disability benefits will end the "ridiculous" system that gives people lifetime awards, Iain Duncan Smith has claimed. The Work and Pensions Secretary told the Daily Mail: "Seventy per cent of people on it have lifetime awards which means no one sees you ever again. It doesn't matter if you get better or your condition worsens - it's quite ridiculous."
  • Disabled People Minister Esther McVey told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that replacements for disability living allowance are not intended to save money but ensure the pot is better spent. She said:

There are no targets... [the changes] were really to reflect today's understanding of disability, to take into account cognitive, learning, sensory, fluctuating, conditions that had not really happened in 1992 which was very much about physical conditions.

It was about ensuring it did not continue at the growth it was going... it was about the fact that by 2018 we couldn't have one in 17 people in the public on the benefit. It was about stopping this growth that had gone up.

But it was about spending the £13 billion every year on those people who need it most.

The charity Scope sets out some of the arguments against PIP:

  • PIP includes tighter eligibility criteria and a new assessment system which will see 600,000 disabled people lose £2.62 billion of support over the next five years.
  • Under the DLA a claimant was entitled to the higher rate of the mobility component if they are ‘unable or virtually unable to walk’. Usually claimants are considered to be ‘virtually unable to walk’ if they cannot walk more than around 50 metres but under PIP this has been reduced to 20 metres.
  • The Government is effectively abolishing 'low rate care' - PIP has just two rates (standard and enhanced) whereas DLA had three (low, middle and high).
  • The assessment does not take into account most of the reasons why a disabled persons life costs more.

In 2013 disabled people are struggling to make ends meet. Life costs more if you’re disabled.

But this year living costs are spiralling and income is flat-lining. Disabled people are getting into debt to pay for essentials.

What’s the Government’s response? It is cutting a financial life-line for disabled people, which helps them meet the extra costs of day-to-day living when you have a disability.

The reform is fundamentally flawed.

DLA needs reforming and could be better targeted to meet the extra costs people face.

But disabled people are frightened by the Government’s plans. They believe it’s just an excuse to cut their support.

It doesn’t help that the minister is able to predict exactly how many disabled people will receive support before they have even been tested.

This raises alarming questions that the Government is working to arbitrary targets.

– Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope

More on this story