The government’s impact assessment of its £2bn cut to disability living allowance has been slammed for failing to assess how many people will lose support, nine months after the policy was announced.
The replacement of DLA by personal independence payment, part of the Welfare Reform Bill published yesterday, will save £2.17bn from 2013-14 to 2015-16, but the impact assessment on the change did not specify how many people will be affected.
The omission was heavily criticised by Neil Coyle, director of policy at Disability Alliance (DA), who said the Department for Work and Pensions was bound to have a rough estimate of how many people would lose support given that it was targeting a particular level of saving.
“We’ve been asking for accurate estimates for the number of people who may lose support since the policy was announced [last June],” he said. “It does raise anxiety and fear for disabled people not to have estimates.”
DA has calculated that about 800,000 people of working age could lose support, based on the fact that PIP will have two rates of payment for people with care needs, not three, as with DLA, suggesting those on the lower care rate will lose out.
Justifying the lack of a figure, the DWP said it would depend on the nature of the proposed eligibility assessment for PIP, which was still being developed. “As more detailed design is completed estimates of the impact of the new assessment on people receiving DLA will be made,” it said.
This echoes the response of disability minister Maria Miller in an interview with Community Care in December, in which she failed to put a figure on the numbers affected by the reform.
Coyle also slammed the cost of the reform – £675m from 2011-12 to 2015-16 – as “astonishing”. The DWP said this would fund changes to the IT system, staff training, administrative costs and hiring health professionals.
The government did say that 700,000 disabled people would lose an average of £36 a week – or £1,872 a year – by 2015-16 as a result of its decision to limit employment and support allowance payments to one year for certain claimants.
Of this group, 280,000 people will lose the full £89 a week. Coyle said this would deepen already high levels of disability poverty, adding: “It could lead to family breakdown and leave people more dependent on each other. Where there are high care responsibilities already this will tip the balance.”
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