The latest assault on disabled people’s benefits
Last month Esther McVey, our new Minister “for” Disabled People, published the draft regulations that set out the qualifying rules for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which is to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA). These new rules will lead to 960,000 fewer people getting help with the extra costs of coping with disability and 400,000 fewer will qualify for an adapted car from the Motability scheme. More than 5,000 jobs in the car industry could be threatened.
By 2018, existing claimants of DLA will have been re-assessed and transferred to PIP. It’s important to acknowledge that some people will be better off: the Department for Work and Pensions’ revised impact assessment says that, of 1.75 million people who will be re-assessed, 510,000 will be better off and the awards of a further 270,000 will be unchanged. But the government’s objective of cutting spending on DLA by more than £1 billion has been clear since the 2010 Budget: 510,000 will be worse off and 450,000 people will lose all entitlement.
The government’s defence of this decision is that the people who will lose out have less severe impairments and so don’t need their benefits as much. In fact, as the TUC argued in 2011, you cannot read off a disabled person’s extra costs from a diagnosis of the severity of their impairment. Governments don’t like asking how much the extra costs of disability actually are, but the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys carried out a highly-regarded investigation into this question in the mid-1980s. They found that even people in the lowest severity category faced extra costs (about £3 a week) and there were large minorities with much higher costs. There were:
- 30,000 people paying more than £50 a week;
- 70,000 people paying £30-£50 a week;
- 190,000 people paying £20-£30 a week;
- 840,000 people paying £10-£20 a week.
Prices are now about two-and-a-half times as high as they were then.
The best example of this problem – and the one causing most anger amongst disabled people – is the much tougher rules there will be for the enhanced mobility component. You need to get this to qualify for help with an adapted vehicle from Motability. We Are Spartacus has an excellent post about this – the main difference is that, under the existing rules, you qualify if you cannot walk 50 metres or more. The new PIP rules reduce this to 20 metres.
The government’s assessment recognises that, by 2018, 602,000 disabled people will have the level of PIP that qualifies them for Motability: 428,000 fewer than if DLA had been retained. People will find it harder to visit friends and family, go shopping or go out for a meal or to the cinema; thousands will have to give up their jobs. Worryingly, it is not clear what will happen to people whose eligibility ends before their Motability leases and hire purchase agreements.
It isn’t only disabled people who will be affected. A report published last summer, Reversing from Recovery, reported that as many as ten per cent of all new car sales in the UK are through Motability. Revised figures taking the new rules into account suggest that the car industry could lose 50,000 sales a year, threatening 5,500 jobs.
I marked the International Day of Disabled People last month by noting the attacks the current government has launched on disabled people, including the closure of Remploy factories, the abolition of equality impact assessments, the closure of the Independent Living Funds, cuts in social care, cuts in Employment and Support Allowance and cuts in Universal Credit. I should also have added the “bedroom tax”: the cut in Housing Benefit for disabled people who need an extra room for overnight carers, and now we have to add this huge cut in Personal Independence Payment.
What can you do?
There’s plenty that we can do to oppose these changes:
- There’s a Facebook group on the bedroom tax;
- We Are Spartacus, Guerrilla Policy and The Hardest Hit have action pages, through which you can access tools to lobby your MP, including some excellent graphics;
- There’s a really useful We Are Spartacus briefing for MPs;
- Raise this at your next branch meeting – contact me [firstname.lastname@example.org] for help getting a speaker.