The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been forced to delay plans to start reassessing claimants of disability living allowance (DLA) for its replacement benefit following legal action taken by disabled campaigners.
The government had been due to start reassessing some existing DLA claimants for the new personal independence payment (PIP) from 7 October, but this has now been delayed until 28 October.
The decision to tighten the walking distance criteria for the PIP enhanced mobility rate from 50 to 20 metres sparked a judicial review earlier this year.
This forced the Conservative disabled people’s minister Esther McVey to carry out a new consultation on the proposed changes, which closed on 5 August and produced more than 1,100 responses.
Because of the consultation, DWP said it was postponing the beginning of reassessments for three weeks, and would lay regulations in parliament today (Thursday) to change the start date from 7 October to 28 October.
It told staff this week in a leaked email seen by Disability News Service: “In order that consideration can be fully given to the responses received and whether any changes are necessary to the assessment criteria, the reassessment of some existing DLA claimants will now start from 28 October.”
The email added: “No decisions have been made yet about whether changes to the criteria are necessary. If the government decides changes are needed, we will further delay the start of reassessment until after those changes have been made.”
Jane Young, coordinator of the We Are Spartacus online network of disabled campaigners, who last week was awarded the O A Denly Memorial Award by Disabled Motoring UK for her campaigning work on PIP, said: “The delay of the reassessment of current DLA claimants is not particularly unexpected given that there were more than 1,100 responses to the consultation on the moving around activity.”
But she said the delay “tells us nothing” about whether the government would change its mind over the move from 50 metres, although campaigners must hope that “the weight of responses” criticising the government’s decision will persuade it to amend the regulations.
A DWP spokesman said: “We recently held a further consultation on the mobility component of PIP, as part of the on-going process of engagement through the introduction of the new benefit.
“In order to give us time to consider all the consultation responses and decide whether changes to the assessment criteria are necessary, we will now be starting the process for reassessing existing claimants from 28 October.”
DWP began rolling out PIP for new claimants from June, but it had also been planning to reassess more than 200,000 existing DLA claimants over the year from October 2013 to September 2014, including 37 per cent of fixed-term DLA claimants.
Only those existing DLA claimants who report a change in their care or mobility needs, or whose fixed-term award is about to expire, or who are reaching the age of 16, will start to be reassessed from next month, with others not being reassessed until 2015 at the earliest.
12 September 2013