Four Words Further Forward

A few weeks ago I wrote about the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), the disability benefit that’s due to start replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) from April.

There are many big concerns about PIP, which appears to be being brought in with the main aim of cutting support completely for at least 500,000 disabled people and reducing the level of help for hundreds of thousands more.

The assessment process has arguably been designed to reduce eligibility in an underhand and irresponsible way. For example, under DLA, you’d receive the higher rate mobility payment if you were ‘unable to walk’ or ‘virtually unable to walk’ 50 metres, but under PIP it’s only 20 metres, a reduction of 60%.

Another huge worry was the omission of the phrase ‘Reliably, repeatedly, safely, and in a timely manner’ from the regulations. Without this phrase, the assessment would be meaningless because there’d be no requirement for the assessors to consider the manner in which a task was carried out.

So, if I could stagger 20 metres, clinging onto someone else for support, falling several times on the way, I’d still be deemed to be able to walk. Or because I’m physically strong enough to chop up a carrot I’d get no help, even though my erratic arm movements mean that it wouldn’t be just the carrot that got chopped.

But this isn’t another bad news post. I’m writing to share an amazing development.

The government have agreed to amend the regulations to include the crucial phrase.

In a press release from the Department of Work and Pensions on Thursday, Esther McVey, Minister for Disabled People, confirmed that ‘how someone carries out a range of activities will now be considered when their eligibility for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is assessed.’ It goes on to say ‘The proposed addition to the regulations now means that legally individuals will be assessed on what they can do safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a reasonable time period.’

This is hugely significant and is an incredible victory for all those who’ve campaigned against these damaging ‘reforms’. Sue Marsh, a disabled campaigner central to the fight against PIP, wrote from her hospital bed:

‘This stubborn intractable government finally admitted defeat. The fingers I have in various pies started singing an astonishing tune. The government were frightened. They no longer had the stomach for a fight with the very people the public see (rightly or wrongly) as the “real disabled”.’ She continued, ‘Backbenchers were getting twitchy, ministers weren’t sure a daily diet of abandoned cancer patients and cruelly cut off Parkinson’s grannies were a good idea in the run-up to an election.’

Concern about the attack on support for disabled people amongst MPs and the Tory party generally has been growing for some time. Exactly a year ago Daily Mail columnist Sonia Poulton asked ‘Why does David Cameron insist on disability cuts that even sickened his own party?’

The news of the amendment is brilliant and I’m thrilled to be able share it with you. Every time I’ve written ‘write to your MP’ or ‘sign this petition’ I’ve wondered how much of a difference it will really make. This proves that it works!

It’s a wonderful victory in the battle against PIP, but it’s not the end. There’s still a lot to be challenged and changed about how this ‘benefit’ will be rolled out and how the assessment process will work.

If you haven’t already done so please go and sign the WOW Petition which calls ‘for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick & disabled people.’

We must continue to voice our concerns loudly and clearly to ensure future generations have the support they need to live safely when they’re sick, disabled, vulnerable or in need.

To everyone who pushed for those critical four words to be added to the regulations, thank you, we’re a lot further forward because of you.

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