The government is set to slash benefits intended to meet the additional cost of living with a disability warning that up to 640,000 people could be affected by 2021.
The shocking announcement follows a recent consultation into Personal Independence Payments (PIP) – the benefit currently being rolled out to replace Disability Living Allowance. This benefit is awarded based on a points system which assesses addional costs incurred due to disability such as care or mobility needs. In a press release issued this morning the DWP have said that in future the numbers of points awarded to people who need some form of aid or appliance to help them dress or manage toilet needs will be halved.
According the department this is because much of the equipment needed by disabled people to manage these activites is available for one one off purchase at a low price or can sometimes be accessed for free from local councils or the NHS. The key word here being sometimes. If a disabled person needs a ceiling hoist to help them dress, or a specially adapted toilet, and their local authority will not pay for it, then unless they can find the money they will not be able to do these things unassisted. And this money may have to come out of meagre out-of-work sickness benefits, soon to be slashed to just over £70 a week for some disabled people.
The changes were widely opposed in the recent consultation with just 11 individuals agreeing change were required to the current system out of a total of 281 responses. Many disabled people’s organisations warned of the high costs of disability equipment, which also needs to be replaced, repaired and insured. A list of equipment which could be affecting by the changes is included in the consulation and include ceiling hoist – currently availalable for just £1,410 on ebay, incontinence products – £11.04 for 40 pads from Age UK and grab rails which can cost over £100 according to the Disabled Living Foundation. This is what the DWP means when they say items which can be “purchased for a low one-off cost”. In a shabby attempt to disguise a straight up benefit cut, the department says some of these things will be covered by other areas of the PIP assessment. This ignores the stark fact that these changes will mean some people will no longer be entitled to PIP at all.
The changes will initially only apply to new claimants, those who have a change in circumstances, such as moving house, and those being tranferred from Disability Living Allowance onto PIP – which will soon be everybody.
Charities and disabled people’s organisations have said that this cut will mean many disabled people will lose their independence and that costs may be pushed onto local councils and the already over-burdened NHS. But even this will create a postcode lottery for vital support which many disabled people need to live an independent life.
With a new Health & Work Programme on the way, which could see forced medical treatment as a condition of claiming benefits, vicious cuts to out of work disability benefits and now a slashing of support available to pay for disability aids and equipment, this is a government waging war on disabled people like never before. And that is a war on everybody. The UK used to be a place where there was a consensus that if you became sick and disabled then the cost of living an independent life would be socialised – a social insurance system that benefitted us all. It may not have always worked out that way, disability benefits have never been generous, but that’s what most people wanted, and probably still do. Soon however only the rich will be able to meet the cost of living with a disability. For the rest of us an accident or illness will mean being abandoned to poverty as a lesson to the working class of what happens if your productivity and ability to generate profits for wealthy might be slightly impaired in any way.
You can read the government’s response to the consulation they ignored at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/personal-independence-payment-aids-and-appliances-descriptors
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