Disability benefit cut to go ahead despite opposition

The government is pressing ahead with its proposed cuts to disability living allowance in the face of widespread opposition,...

The government is pressing ahead with its proposed cuts to disability living allowance in the face of widespread opposition, ministers announced today.

Plans to replace DLA with the personal independence payment (PIP) from 2013, while cutting spending on claimants of working-age by 20%, remain on track, the Department for Work and Pensions said as it published its response to its consultation on the plans.

It is designed to save £2.17bn by 2016, by focusing the benefit on those in greatest need.

During the consultation, disabled people and groups raised significant concerns about various proposals to restrict eligibility to PIP.

These include increasing the qualifying period for the benefit from three months to six months after the onset of an impairment; taking into account people’s successful use of aids and adaptations, such as wheelchairs, in judging whether they should be eligible; and ending automatic entitlement to the benefit for people with certain health conditions.

However, despite opposition, the government plans to retain these elements, the DWP said.

“DLA is complex to apply for and to administer, lacks consistency in the way it supports disabled people with similar needs, and has no systematic process for checking the ongoing accuracy of awards,” said minister for disabled people Maria Miller.

But she added: “I am clear that as we design and develop how Personal Independence Payment will work in practice, we will need to continue to involve disabled people and their organisations.”

The one major concession the DWP has already announced is to put on hold plans to remove the mobility component of DLA from publicly-funded care home residents in October 2012 and review one of its central justifications for the policy – that the payments duplicate funding for mobility also provided by councils in care packages.

This justification has been vigorously rejected by disability charities, who say that councils provide no such funding for individual residents’ mobility.

The Treasury’s costings assume that the DLA mobility cut will come into force in April 2013, when the PIP is implemented, but the DWP has stressed that its aim is only to “remove any overlaps in public funds”, suggesting that there is room for compromise.

The DWP also confirmed that people will retain eligibility for PIP when they turn 65, as currently happens with DLA, following concerns that older people will lose eligibility when they reach pensionable age.

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