Today the DWP have published their response to the recent consultation over the distance that someone must be unable to walk to qualify for help with moving around under Personal Independence Payments. That consultation itself came about after legal action was launched against the DWP by myself and others because the first consultation took place under false pretences.
The result: they’re keeping the threshold for enhanced support at twenty metres.
Unfortunately, despite Mike Penning – the new Minister of State for Disabled People – assuring us in the foreward that the DWP “have listened carefully to the feedback received from disabled people and their organisations” the bulk of the response sets out why the DWP are going to ignore the feedback that has been given to them.
The most telling part is paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3 which read:
“Out of 1142 respondents, 914 indicated a clear preference for changing the Moving around criteria. [From 20m to something else.] [...] Five individual respondents were supportive of retaining the current criteria.“
Just in case that isn’t clear, 914 people told the DWP that the twenty metre threshold for high rate support with moving around was no good, while just 5 people told them to keep it at twenty metres.
The executive summary is three pages long and doesn’t actually state the outcome directly. However, this is the DWP summary of what the public responses said to them: (Emphasis mine)
- Respondents felt that there was no evidence to support the use of 20 metres as the distance for determining entitlement to the enhanced rate of the Mobility component. Many respondents felt that there was little evidence to show that an individual who could walk a little over 20 metres would face lower costs than an individual who could walk less than 20 metres. Respondents pointed out that other Government policies use 50 metres as a measure for mobility.
- Respondents were concerned that the current 20 metres distance used in the criteria would have negative consequences for individuals. Many respondents were concerned about the impact on people moving from the higher rate of DLA to the standard rate of PIP who would lose access to a Motability scheme car. They felt this could increase isolation and reduce independence, have significant financial impact, and cause deterioration in their physical and mental health.
- Respondents felt the criteria would increase individuals’ need for support from other public services and that this would have an increased cost for the Government.
- Respondents welcomed the inclusion in Regulations of the reliability criteria, which are used to measure a person’s ability to complete an activity safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly and within reasonable time period. However, they wanted to ensure that these were delivered appropriately and consistently in the PIP assessment
The most common suggestion made by respondents was to extend the qualifying distance for the enhanced rate from 20 metres to a longer distance. Other people suggested revising the assessment to make it more in line with the social model of disability.
And the DWP response:
1.14 Having considered all these factors, the Government believes that the use of 20 metres is the best way of identifying those whose physical mobility is most limited. We think it is justified to focus support in this way given the policy intent to target support on those with the greatest need and create a more financially sustainable benefit.
I see a small glimmer of hope here though. One thing that disabled people said to government repeatedly that anyone deemed able to perform an action must be able to do so safely, reliably and repeatedly.
1.15 The reliability criteria are a key protection for claimants and, recognising the concerns voiced by some respondents to the consultation, we will look to introduce a requirement for Health Professionals involved in the assessment to confirm that they have referred to the criteria when formulating their advice.
It seems clear that the responses to the consultation were never going to matter; the DWP has ridden roughshod over the whole lot to push ahead with what they want. They explain that the overwhelming majority of responses were against them, they acknowledge all the objections, and then they carry on as before. It’s quite telling that their document has an almost petulant tone to it, like some teenager at being told they can’t have their own way. For example: ”Government is entitled to use different criteria for different purposes”.
I am not able to talk about my next step with regard to legal action however my solicitors and I will be going over the consultation response very carefully in the next few days.
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