DRC and Scope back Tory MP’s bid for single benefits assessment for disabled people

Disability campaigners are backing a Conservative MP’s bid to ensure disabled people no longer face multiple assessments to access benefits, writes Louise Hunt.

Jeremy Hunt introduced a bill into the House of Commons last Wednesday to create a single assessment system for disability benefits, which would create an IT system to ensure people are only asked about their impairments once.

He has won the backing of the Disability Rights Commission, the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign and disability charity Scope.

Disabled people can apply for up to 10 benefits and would have to answer 1351 questions over 412 pages to apply for all of them, resulting in very low take-up.

Hunt said: “Disabled people are constantly frustrated, let down, and even humiliated by a system that asks them to repeat in writing their disability in a thousand different ways, that squanders money on official error, waste and fraud, and then singularly fails to reach those in the greatest need.”

The Disability Benefits (Single Assessment) Bill is due to receive its second reading in the Commons on 19 October but will not become law in this session. However, Hunt wants it to influence a current review of benefits by disability minister Anne McGuire. It is also expected to become Conservative Party policy.

DRC senior parliamentary officer Graham Nickson said he welcomed the opportunity it gave to debate the issue.

“Essentially we think it is a useful contribution and reflects the growing sense that the benefits system has become too complex and that some people are missing out and therefore it has become self-defeating. Hopefully, this debate will lead to a cross-party agreement to tackle these issues.”

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