The government’s own benefits advice body has called for financial compensation to help those disabled people set to lose out from the government’s reforms and cuts to spending on disability living allowance (DLA).
The social security advisory committee (SSAC) said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should ensure some “transitional protection” for those with lower support needs, in order to avoid “tough cases”.
The committee was responding to a consultation on the government’s proposed assessment criteria for its new personal independence payment (PIP), which is set to replace working-age DLA.
SSAC says transitional protection is necessary because “the removal of the lower rate care component [of DLA] means that people with a lower level of disability who still continue to experience additional costs will lose out under PIP”.
As many as 500,000 disabled people are set to lose the right to support as a result of DWP plans to cut the number of claimants by 20 per cent by 2015-16.
SSAC also complains that the results of disabled people’s claims for employment and support allowance (ESA) are being used as evidence to turn down DLA claims, even though SSAC was “explicitly told by DWP officials that this would not happen”.
This is particularly controversial because of the long-running concerns over the unfairness and inflexibility of the work capability assessment, the test used to judge ESA eligibility.
The committee adds: “The PIP assessment needs to be genuinely independent of the ESA assessment so as to reflect its different emphasis, and one should not be used to inform the other.”
Among other concerns raised in its response to the consultation, SSAC raises fears that the new assessment would exclude many people with mental health conditions from claiming PIP.
It also calls for regular reviews of the PIP assessment because it “may be difficult to get the design of the new benefit right first time”, as well as changes to make the assessment fairer for people with fluctuating and progressive conditions.
A DWP spokesman said: “We welcome the views of all individuals and organisations, including SSAC, as we continue to consult on the detailed requirements for PIP.
“We will be publishing our responses to the consultations in due course.”
9 May 2012