Disability welfare changes delayed by assessment process

 
Generic image of a man in a wheelchair The government said the process of reassessing people was taking longer than planned

Disability welfare changes for England, Scotland and Wales have been delayed because the government has been unable to assess claimants in time.

Personal Independence Payments will replace Disability Living Allowance next week only for claimants in certain areas rather than across Britain.

Ministers said assessments were taking longer than expected and the scheme would now be phased in more gradually.

Labour's Rachel Reeves said it showed there was "chaos" in the department.

Over the next few years the government is moving around 3.3 million Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants, aged 16-64, to the new benefit - the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

DLA - worth between £21 and £134.40 a week - is available to disabled people who have difficulty walking or need help to look after themselves.

Under the PIP system, which introduces regular written and face-to-face medical assessments, claimants will receive a daily living component of either £53 or £79.15 and a mobility component of either £21 or £55.25.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) says the new system will be simpler and fairer and is essential to control costs to the taxpayer, which have risen to £13bn a year since DLA was introduced in 1992.

Analysis

Ministers know that they have public opinion on their side as they try to reduce the benefit bill.

But changes to disability benefits, in particular, have proved hugely controversial for the department of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

There's been intense criticism of the assessments carried out by the healthcare firm Atos, for instance, which decides whether disabled people are fit for work.

And it is Atos, along with another firm Capita, which is responsible for reassessing the long-term ill and disabled going onto the new Personal Independence Payment.

Assessments for new claimants are taking much longer than expected, resulting in a backlog in the system - hence the delay in rolling out the benefit to all those on Disability Living Allowance.

While ministers insist that getting it right is better than implementing a flawed system on time, their critics see delay as a sign that all is not well.

But charities and campaigners have argued it is unfair that millions of vulnerable people face a long period of anxiety while they wait to be reassessed and to find out if their benefits will be cut or withdrawn.

By 2018, 450,000 people will be ineligible for PIPs, while 780,000 will receive the same as or more than they previously did, according to the DWP.

Change in circumstances

The vast majority of disabled claimants will continue to claim DLA until 2015, after which point they will be sent information about reapplying for PIP.

But since June this year, all new disabled claimants have had to apply for PIP, and all current claimants whose circumstances have changed had been due to start moving to the new benefit on Monday.

The change to the reform timetable means only those in Wales, the East and West Midlands and East Anglia will transfer to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) from Monday if their condition changes.

The government said the need for the alteration had only came to light at the beginning of October.

The Department for Work and Pensions said Labour's claim of chaos over the changes was "wrong".

A spokesman said ministers had deliberately chosen a phased introduction for PIP claim reassessments so the system could be regularly reviewed.

"Our latest analysis, which is now beginning to benefit from more meaningful data, is telling us that the end-to-end claiming process is taking longer than expected," the spokesman added.

The adjustment to the timetable will not affect people in Northern Ireland.

Vulnerable people

Ms Reeves, shadow work and pensions secretary, said PIP followed the government's Work Programme and Universal Credit schemes in being beset by difficulties.

She said: "The delivery problems we are seeing at the Department for Work and Pensions now risk descending into farce. But for thousands of disabled people who are already extremely anxious about the changes, this is no joke.

"Not only is David Cameron's government out of touch but it's increasingly incompetent."

Labour's Rachel Reeves said the changes would cause "huge anxiety" for recipients

Work and Pensions Select Committee chair Dame Anne Begg, meanwhile, said delay in itself was "not a bad thing".

"I'd rather that we get it right because very often the people we're dealing with in the reform of the welfare system are people who are very vulnerable, who find it quite difficult to navigate their way through the system," the Labour MP for Aberdeen South told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"But, at the same time, the constant delays are also causing anxiety.

"People know that it's coming but they never know quite when they're going to be called in for a reassessment and exactly what the outcomes are going to be."

Disability charity Scope said the move was just a "tweak" and that it still believed the whole reassessment process was "too blunt an instrument".

The changes to disability benefits are part of an overhaul of the benefits system, which will see a string of working-age benefits merged into a single payment called Universal Credit.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 523.

    Isn't it funny how many people either stopped claiming this benefit or didn't turn up for assessments forfeiting their claims?!

    The good work is already done no matter how long it takes to implement the new system.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 493.

    There's a difference between disabled and unfit to work.

    Many disabled people are fit to work in some way however, but that doesn't mean they aren't disabled, that they're frauds or that they don't need help. Most of these people want nothing more than to get on and lead normal lives but genuinely need extra help to do so. DLA gives them that. Why take it away from them?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 486.

    My sister is an alcoholic and has not worked for years. She had to go for an assessment and got the maximum points for her behaviour! She told me that she was going to get rat-arsed and be as obnoxious as possible. It worked, and yet my other sister who died of cancer 6 months ago was told three months before she died that she was fit to work. She was in agony all the time. There is no justice.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 370.

    These payments have to be fair to those paying as well as those receiving. This will require both periodic assessment of claimants and a judgement as to how much support the taxpayer can fairly bear.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 322.

    I was one of those who's claim was dealt with unfairly. Recurring issues not taken into account. Thousands of such claims have been reassessed & reinstated with more to follow.
    Me? I don't have the patience, strength nor the willpower to chase it anymore. I used to do 30hrs voluntary work each week, I've had to cut that back because I'm finding it mentally & physically exhausting as time goes by.

 

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  83.  
    09:36: Sir Jeremy Heywood & jargon

    Daily Mail sketch-writer, Quentin Letts, has accused Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood of "pure Stalinism" in his use of language.

    "Stove-piping" and "horizon-scanning" were among phrases used by Sir Jeremy while giving evidence to the Public Administration Committee on Tuesday. Letts tells the Today programme that opaque language could be an attempt to baffle.

     
  84.  
    @paulwaugh 09:29: Paul Waugh, PoliticsHome

    tweets: Milburn/Hutton/Mand feel like drummer + guitarists trying to get band back together. But minus lead singer Blair. Discuss #UglyRumours #WRM

     
  85.  
    09:26: NHS incidents

    Labour's Andy Burnham has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt querying new guidelines on "major incidents" issued to NHS hospitals by the West Midlands NHS region. He writes: "Procedures for declaring major incidents are long-established in the NHS and it is a highly unusual move for new guidance to be issued in the middle of a difficult winter. This had led some in the NHS to question the motives behind it."

     
  86.  
    09:22: UKIP & the smoking ban
    nigel farage

    UKIP would overturn the smoking ban as one of its election pledges, the party announced yesterday. The Times is carrying the story today saying Nigel Farage's party has promised to "amend the smoking ban to promote choice for ventilated smoking rooms". It has also set out its opposition to plain cigarette packaging.

     
  87.  
    09:11: NHS incidents Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Labour's health spokesman Andy Burnham is writing to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in relation to the new guidelines on "major incidents" issued by the West Midlands NHS region. Mr Burnham is asking whether similar guidance has been issued in trusts in other parts of the country.

     
  88.  
    09:00: Breaking News Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    The BBC has seen new guidelines that have been issued to some NHS hospitals over when they can call "major incidents." The new guidelines issued by the West Midlands NHS region include 17 additional criteria, prompting accusations that hospitals are being pressurised not to declare "major incidents". It is understood the new guidelines were drawn up after a spate of hospitals earlier this month announced they were declaring "major incidents" because of pressure on bed spaces.

     
  89.  
    08:51: Social care debate BBC Radio 4

    On the Today programme, Chris Ham, of the King's Fund, says there is a growing consensus that health and social care should be integrated. They are currently funded separately - but councils, which are responsible for social care - are warning they are struggling to cover their costs. Merging the two is a key plank of Labour's health pledges ahead of the election. With the NHS facing funding pressures of its own, Prof Ham warns against "robbing Peter to pay Paul".

    Social care
     
  90.  
    08:43: Calls for MP to be replaced

    The Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset is facing calls from within his own party to be deselected as a candidate in the general election.

    West Somerset Council's Conservatives group have passed a vote of no confidence in Ian Liddell Grainger.

    In the voting papers obtained by the BBC he was described as "back-stabbing" and using "unethical manoeuvres".

    He is yet to comment but the body in charge of selecting the candidate says it has "every confidence in him".

    Ian Liddell-Grainger MP
     
  91.  
    08:35: Call for stronger parliaments

    More should be done to strengthen parliaments in developing countries. The International Development Committee says a strong parliament "will inevitably ensure greater transparency and better use of state revenues including official development assistance".

    The committee's new report on parliamentary strengthening recommends the Department for International Development puts parliaments at the heart of its governance work.

     
  92.  
    08:30: 'Ethnic kinship' vote fraud warning
    polling station

    The elections watchdog is warning that a lack of campaigning by mainstream political parties in British Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities makes those areas vulnerable to electoral fraud. The Electoral Commission says there is a political "void" in some communities.

    It suggests this void is being filled with "ethnic kinship networks" which could undermine the principle of free choice for voters.

     
  93.  
    @chhcalling 08:25: Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris

    tweets: Went to a restaurant and had some Greek yogurt for breakfast. Alas I couldn't find a German to pay for it.

     
  94.  
    08:20: Ministry of Defence savings
    Ministry of Defence property

    The Ministry of Defence will have to sell off more military land and assets to make savings in the coming years, the defence secretary is indicating. Michael Fallon is expected to say in a speech this morning that his department's finances are in better shape than they once were but savings still need to be made.

    He will say the emphasis should be on supporting frontline troops by selling off more of the MoD's large estate.

     
  95.  
    @benatipsosmori 08:11: Ben Page, Ipsos MORI chief executive

    tweets: 100 days before 2015 election vs 2010 GE15 #politics pic.twitter.com/r8eH9eCIUa> some big differences for opposition party now!

    Vote share chart
     
  96.  
    08:05: Westminster today
    Palace of Westminster

    What will Ed Miliband choose to go on at Westminster's big event, Prime Minister's Questions, and what will David Cameron have lined to up to respond?

    PMQs is at noon, right after Northern Ireland Questions in the Commons. The House of Lords will continue to consider the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

     
  97.  
    07:58: What next for Boris Johnson? Tim Donovan Political Editor, BBC London
    David Cameron and Boris Johnson

    London Mayor Boris Johnson (pictured on the right) has been touring northern towns, posing with a Kalashnikov in Kurdistan, and is to travel to Washington soon.

    People cannot help but notice that he is busy and the activity is hardly confined to life behind a desk at City Hall where his writ has a full 17 months to run. So what lies in store for London Mayor Boris Johnson?

     
  98.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: BBC Westminster Election Countdown Clock (err...whiteboard) crisis: someone's used a permanent marker again:

    bbc board
     
  99.  
    07:42: Carole Walker Political correspondent, BBC News
    Department of Health images of how standardised packaging may look

    The government is facing growing opposition from Conservative MPs over its plans to introduce standardised packaging on packets of cigarettes.

    Opponents believe as many as 100 Tories could vote against the plans which could become law before the general election.

    Ministers say MPs will have a free vote on the issue.

     
  100.  
    07:38: Taiwan watch gaffe
    susan kramer

    A UK government minister has had to apologise for giving a watch to the mayor of Taiwan's capital city, Taipei, without realising such gifts are taboo. Susan Kramer said she did not know giving clocks suggests time is running out for the person who receives it in Chinese culture, and said sorry.

     

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