Blind charity the RNIB is appealing to MPs to vote with their consciences and end the “unfair” exclusion of severely blind people from £29 a week in mobility benefits in a crucial vote next week.
Labour MP John Robertson is due to table an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill on 17 March which would allow people who are blind to claim the higher rate of the mobility component of disability living allowance, worth £46.75 a week.
Currently, people with severe sight loss are only eligible for the lower rate of £17.75, unless they are also unable to walk or are deaf and need assistance to move around outside the home.
Support from more than 300 MPs
The RNIB, which has long campaigned for a change in the law, said more than 300 MPs from all parties have signalled their support through two early day motions on the issue.
However, the Liberal Democrats are the only one of the three main parties to have explicitly backed the policy.
Government says “can’t afford” change
Disability minister Jonathan Shaw said last week the government backed the idea in principle, but it could not afford to implement it now.
The RNIB and the government have agreed that the policy would cost £45m a year plus administration costs.
The charity’s head of campaigns, Steve Winyard, welcomed Shaw’s support, but added: “[It] is a tiny sum when set against the billions that has been found for banks.”
Higher rate of mobility benefit
This is reserved for people who are unable or virtually unable to walk those for whom the effort of walking would be dangerous people who are deaf, blind and need to be assisted outside people with significant care needs who are severely mentally impaired with severe behavioural problems.