Move from DLA to PIP delayed as government struggles to assess everyone

Personal Independence Payments were introduced for new claimants in April this year however people currently receiving Disability Living Allowance were due to start being moved to PIP from next week as either their current award ended or they reported a change to their circumstances or needs.

Now though, the government has decided to delay this move for most people. Only people living in Wales, the East and West Midlands and East Anglia will start to be assessed for PIP. New claimants will still claim for PIP and not DLA.

Although it may be unrelated, the areas that will go ahead with assessment for existing DLA claimants are those where face to face assessments will be carried out by Capita, while Atos have the contract in most other areas. It seems likely that Atos are struggling to assess everyone that has been sent to them. Even where people have been assessed already there are delays though; one new applicant has told me that he has been waiting five months since applying and three months since being seen by Atos.

While a delay is exactly what campaigners called for more than a year ago, doing so at this stage betrays the chaos behind the rollout and it leaves many people hanging with no idea what will happen when their DLA award runs out or their needs change in the next few months. The government claims that people will continue to get DLA, but whether in practice people will continue to be paid or not remains to be seen. Those affected can have no confidence in their income, which will affect services and contracts that DLA pays for and may prevent people from securing cars or wheelchairs to enable their mobility.

For once the BBC has been paying attention and here are some media clips that explain more about what is happening.

Dame Anne Begg on Radio 4 Today Programme – 26/10/2013

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Sue Marsh on Radio 4 PM – 26/10/2013

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Sue Marsh on BBC News – 26/10/2013

Jane Young on BBC News – 26/10/2013

BBC News – Disability welfare changes delayed by assessment process

The Guardian – Controversial disability benefit changes delayed

Being accused of DLA fraud may force you to apply for PIP

The Benefits and Work website claims that people will lose their Disability Living Allowance permanently if someone accuses them of fraud. There is some truth behind this claim but the headline is a wild speculation from the information that they actually have.

The facts behind the story are this:

People who currently receive DLA will all be “invited” to apply for Personal Independence Payments over the next few years. A large number of people who receive DLA are not expected to qualify for the same level of support from PIP and so this move is rightly feared by many. People can apply for PIP before their DLA runs out if they wish – these are “self selectors” in DWP speak. Anyone whose care or mobility needs change will have to apply for PIP rather than alter their DLA claim. As long as nothing changes, most people can remain on DLA until 2015 or the end of their award.

The scary part of this story comes from a quote that Benefits and Work found on Rightsnet.

“At our local JC+/customer/representative forum meeting last week a DWP partner support manager brought the following change of wording to the attention of the meeting (second bullet point on page one of link)

In his words anyone who was ‘bubbled’ (shopped) would be taken as if they were a ‘self selector’ in the DLA/PIP reassessments.

Nothing appears to have been changed in the PIP trans regs to allow this but it is worrying when the PIP/DWP ‘thinking’ changes the words ‘those claimants where we receive information…’ from the actual legislation.”

The source claims that anyone who is reported to the DWP for fraud will be treated as if they have reported a change and therefore have to apply for PIP.

This is a fairly tenuous link, but a worrying one all the same. The overwhelming majority of reports to the benefit fraud hotline are either malicious or wrong and the fraud rate for DLA is incredibly low. If all that is required to trigger the move to PIP is a false report then a lot of people are going to be badly affected. However, we do not know whether this second-hand claim is true, or whether the practice will be widespread or just confined to one or two areas, and we do not know if a person will have to be found guilty of benefit fraud or just reported – the wording could mean either. Given the history of the DWP’s approach to sanctions I wouldn’t say it is out of the question for this to happen against the rules, but we will have to wait and see about that.

I find the way that Benefits and Work have reported this to be irresponsible and misleading. In their email they stated that “The DWP have ruled that…” when there is no such ruling, only a second-hand report. They also missed out the third sentence from their quote, which stated that nothing has changed in the PIP regulations.

I do not think anyone should worry about being moved because of a malicious fraud report, at least until we have more evidence.

Benefits and Work: Claimants to lose DLA permanently if falsely accused of fraud, DWP decides

PIP 20 metre rule consultation response: “We’re not listening.”

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.

Please sign WOW Petition against the War On Welfare.

DWP website: Consultation on the PIP assessment ‘moving around’ activity

Jane Young: The PIP 20 metre rule remains intact

Victory! DWP to launch PIP mobility consultation

Why I am suing the government