Disability campaigners are celebrating a “victory” after the government announced it would look again at controversial plans to make it more difficult to claim disability benefits.
The Department for Work and Pensions said this week that it would run another round of consultations on the implementation of the new Personal Independence Payments for the disabled. A group of activists threatened to take legal action over a proposed tightening of the rules, which would have left fewer people eligible for the top rate.
The DWP said it has received “significant feedback from disabled people” and announced that the new consultation period will be launched later this month.
Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey said: “Throughout the process of developing the new benefit we have listened to the feedback we have received and made significant changes to the assessment as a direct result of this feedback. This includes holding one of the biggest consultations ever at DWP.
“The assessment was designed to target support on those who need it most – those individuals who face the greatest barriers to participating in society. However, we have listened to disabled people and their organisations who wanted a further consultation, so that is what we are doing.
“We are carrying out the consultation with an open mind and will not decide if changes are necessary until we have fully considered the responses to this new consultation.”
But campaigner Steve Sumpter, who is one of three bringing legal action, said he believed the DWP was “trying to avoid conceding the case to avoid political implication of losing”. He added that he has been asked to stay his action as a result of the new consultation. He has not yet decided if he will do so.
“I am very happy that the DWP are re-consulting. I am annoyed that they are trying to do so without admitting that they are at fault,” he added.
The DWP said it has already announced it will be carrying out an independent review in 2014 and will “consider the findings before reassessing the majority of existing DLA claimants”. A statement published on its website read: “Claims for PIP will continue to be processed under the current benefit rules until the outcomes of the consultation are decided. Individuals should continue to claim PIP as normal.”