ME Association responds to the consultation on the future of Disability Living Allowance

Response to the Department of Work and Pensions’ public consultation

Disability Living Allowance reform

The Government has outlined proposals for the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to be replaced in 2013/14 with a new benefit called the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

What is the Personal Independence Payment (PIP)?

The PIP, like the existing DLA, will continue to be a non-means tested benefit, designed to provide additional support for people living with a long-term condition or disability.

However, there are a number of key differences between the proposed new benefit and the existing DLA, including :

* The care component of the DLA will be renamed the daily-living component and will measure an individual’s ability to carry out a series of day-to-day activities

* The three rates of benefit available for the care (daily-living) component will be reduced to two rates

* The initial qualification period of applicants to the DLA will be extended in the PIP from three to six months

* All new applicants and current recipients of the DLA will undergo a face-to-face medical assessment with an independent healthcare professional when the PIP comes into place in 2013/14

How does The ME Association view the proposals?

The ME Association supports the aspiration of simplifying the existing benefit as trying to negotiate a way through the present system of benefits is difficult. We also believe there is a great opportunity to introduce a well targeted allowance which assesses where disabled people incur extra costs. We recognise the Government’s emphasis on the capacity of disabled people to participate in some form of work activity.

DLA however is a lifeline that allows millions of disabled people to do the everyday things that most people take for granted. Replacing it with a scheme that also has as its objective the aim of reducing costs is likely to diminish the help that DLA currently provides. This would impact heavily on the disabled, who are a vulnerable section of our society.

Our particular concerns:

The assessment of disability must, if it is to function fairly, be able to take a complex range of factors into account. It is therefore crucial to people with ME/CFS that the assessors of eligibility for the new benefit should have a good understanding of the illness and its effect on the individual

Whilst acknowledging that work activity has been shown to be of benefit to all members of society, this presupposes that there are sufficient suitable employment opportunities. We do not believe at present that this is the case. Until there is full employment for all, then barriers to work remain, more especially for those who are restricted in their capabilities by illness.

It is with regret that the perennial reference to fraud amongst claimants of benefits appears in the Consultation Paper. There is little evidence to support such a claim

We are concerned that cost rather than effectiveness of the replacement system for DLA will result in even more appeals. If more time and training was given towards a more accurate initial assessment of the claimant then there would be a “win-win” situation. The claimant would be spared the stress of the appeal process and the Government would be save time and money on that appeal.

We believe that the Government should maintain its commitment to keep the PIP as a non-means tested and non-taxable benefit.

We urge the Department for Work and Pensions to carry out an in-depth consultation into the problems with the existing DLA and other benefits for disability and illness. This should involve much greater roles and responsibilities from across the various stakeholders – medical professionals, care service providers, medical charities, patient organisations, benefits advisers, etc.

The aims of a full consultation and development process should be to design the best system for delivering much fuller recognition of needs and awarding of support for all ill and disabled people. The best political and fiscal outcome will tend to result from the best benefits system.

The ME Association
17 February 2011

The DWP consultation closes tomorrow (February 2011)

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