From DLA to PiP – a consultation begins

Yesterday, the government published it’s consultation document regarding proposed changes to Disability Living Allowance (to be renamed Personal Independence Payment.. ).

At Arbitrary Constant there is a fantastic rundown of the details of the document which highlights some of the major points of concern and change from the current system.

So there is going to be a ‘rebranding’. Fair enough – of course a new and shiny ‘welfare system’ needs new names. I didn’t think DLA was particularly badly served and PiP sounds disarmingly chipper but no matter, in effect names are irrelevant.

The document emphasises the need to move to a system for ‘today rather than the 1990s’ again, all rather dull and obvious rhetoric.

The one blindingly obvious statement is that less people will meet the criteria for the new ‘payment’ than currently do. Marry this to the tightening upwards of local authority eligibility criteria for services and the stricter limits for Employment and Support Allowance which is means-tested and we can see that there will be a group of people who will slip away from ‘benefits and services’ completely. I fear that the barrier will be drawn reasonably high and that this has the potential to cause great hardship for some people.

There is no mention of Attendance Allowance at all – Attendance Allowance is the equivalent (but lower) benefit paid to over 65s. There is a note that a consideration will be made as to whether over 65s will be brought into the ‘new’ benefit.

I don’t want to pre-judge but I can’t see there is any possibility of attendance allowance carrying on in anything resembling it’s current form with these changes. I expect a convergence with PiP as differentiation between groups and entitlements on the basis of age is running close to the line as far as Equality legislation is concerned or an abolition of AA entirely.

I wonder at the ‘healthcare professional’ who will be conducting the assessments. This is currently the case with ESA and in some assessments of DLA as far as I understand (let me know if I’m wrong on this!)  and I feel very uncomfortable that the medical professionals who are involved with an individual –  that their own GP or consultant, cannot be trusted to provide relevant information rather than relying on a private company. I took a look at some of the job vacancy adverts for these ‘Disability Analysts’. Unsurprisingly ATOS are advertising for a fair few RGNS (registered general nurses). I was, however surprised that there was no adverts for RMNs (Registered mental nurses). Does that mean that all the ‘health professionals’ primarily have their experience in physical rather than mental health services? I’m willing to accept that maybe I’m putting 2 and 2 together and making 5 but one area I do worry about intensely is the way that decisions will be made for those who have fluctuating disabilities and primarily mental health difficulties. Firstly, the process itself seems to be an additional barrier to claim with many potentially saying ‘I can’t be bothered to make the application because I’ll be turned down’ or ‘I don’t want to be classed as a scrounger or doubted’ and thus a universal, non-means tested benefit eludes a certain group of people who have been terrified out of claiming that which is rightfully theirs.

My impression remains that the government fully knows that they are doing by stigmatising benefit claimants. They are scaring people who are fully entitled out of claiming what they rightfully could receive. That’s a very mean-spirited way of reducing cost.

There is a lot more in the document that I could and will, no doubt, consider over the next few days. I heartily recommend Arbitrary Constant for a much more thorough rundown of the main points.

I intend drafting a response to the consultation and I suggest as many people who are interested do. I am sceptical about the difference that these consultations actually make but it never hurts to try and help get our voices heard.