Today I’m going to write about four very important words and none of them is ‘Biscuit.’
Yesterday I wrote about the changes to the assessment process for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which will replace DLA from April this year. I explained that the mobility component of this benefit would be assessed in a new way which would mean that hundreds of thousands of people with severe mobility difficulties would not receive the level of support required to meet their basic needs. If it helps, think of this in terms of an RIP – a Reduced Independence Punishment. I also encouraged anyone with a body to lobby their MP and get them to speak up on this issue.
If you’ve already done that, thank you. But there’s another change to the assessment process we need to fight for too. It means adding just one crucial phrase to the regulations. Without it PIP will be a travesty of a benefit, helping only a tiny fraction of the people who need it.
What is this magic phrase?
It’s: ‘Reliably, repeatedly, safely, and in a timely manner.’
It’s crucial because it ensures that the assessment of each task takes into consideration the ability of the person who is being made to complete it. Let’s look at it in terms of me chopping a carrot. I’m strong enough to do it in theory, but because my tics make my arms fly about all over the place, in practice I can’t.
Our magic phrase helps explain why not:
Reliably – At any given moment the carrot would be chopped (or unchopped) with different degrees of success
Repeatedly – If I did succeed in chopping one carrot the chances of me chopping another would be slim
Safely – Chopping a carrot involves holding a knife. I don’t think I need to explain in any detail the blood-bath that would ensue if I attempted this, with the level of control I have over my arms. It’d be dangerous for me and for anyone else in the vicinity
Timely Manner – With all that arm flapping and accidental flesh stabbing it’d take me a lot longer to chop the carrot than it’d be reasonable to expect
These considerations are crucial to the assessment of every routine task the PIP process looks at. What use is it being able to walk 20 metres if at the end of it you’ve injured yourself or have to rest for half an hour before you can do anything else? And what good is it if someone can dress themselves, but it takes them so long that by the time they’re finished it’s time to get undressed again?
Currently the government are saying the phrase will appear in the legislation, but only in the guidance for assessors, not embedded in the regulations, and this is a critical distinction.
If the phrase appears in the regulations, assessors will have a direct legal duty to take all four words into consideration in their assessment. If it’s only in the guidance, they’d have to refer to it, but can interpret it in their own way – which would mean no national consistency, another post-code lottery, and much greater difficulty in appealing a decision.
Leaving this phrase out of the regulations would be gambling with the wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people. Remember, it could be you!
Write to your MP as soon as you can and ask them to make sure that this crucial phrase appears where it matters – in the regulations. This will save lives, independence and huge distress.