The government’s own benefits advice body has warned that last-minute changes made to eligibility for the new mobility benefit could have a “catastrophic” impact on some disabled people.
The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) says in a letter that some disabled people will “almost certainly” be forced to quit their jobs because they can no longer travel to work. Others may have to cut their working hours.
The committee says it is concerned about the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) lack of evidence on the impact of its decision to tighten the walking distance criteria for the enhanced mobility rate of the new personal independence payment (PIP) from 50 to 20 metres.
The letter adds: “For some, especially in rural areas where public transport tends to be less available, it may not be an exaggeration to describe the impact as catastrophic with more disabled people becoming increasingly isolated.”
Esther McVey, the Conservative minister for disabled people, was forced to launch a consultation into the change from 50 to 20 metres after facing a judicial review over her decision to tighten the criteria.
SSAC says in its letter that DWP needs to make a stronger case for the change to PIP, which is gradually replacing working-age disability living allowance (DLA).
In the letter to DWP’s PIP assessment development team, the committee also suggests that the consultation document should be expanded to cover the potential impact on disabled people who will lose their Motability vehicles as a result of the changes.
And it calls on the government to consider “in more detail the impact on unpaid carers, the potential shift of costs to other areas (for example employers, health service and social care etc), and the impact on the Motability Scheme”.
It also says it is “concerned that the rationale for reducing the threshold to 20 metres may not represent an appropriate gauge for drawing the line on where ‘those with the greatest needs’ lie”.
It says 50 metres is “long-standing” and “widely accepted” as an appropriate threshold, so the case for cutting it needs to be “stronger than that currently presented in order to persuade individuals that 20 metres is a fair and more appropriate measure”.
By John Pring on the Diasbility News Service, 16th August 2013. Read the rest of the article here: http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/08/governments-benefits-advisers-say-pip-changes-could-cause-catastrophe/