More than 300,000 disabled people will have their benefits cut when Disability Living Allowance is replace by a new benefit, Esther McVey, the minister for disabled people, announced today – but the change has been delayed for two years.
An initial 560,000 claimants will be reassessed by October 2015, and 330,000 or these are expected to either lose their benefit altogether or see their payments reduced, Ms McVey told the House of Commons today.
Ms McVey also announced that reassessments of the remaining claimants will not start until October 2015.
The delay would see most claimants being reassessed after the next General Election, meaning that any furore generated by the changes would be less likely to be an issue during the campaign.
Around 3.2 million people currently receive DLA which gives them between £20.55 and £131.50 a week towards the additional costs of living caused by being disabled. But it will be replaced in April by Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
The first 560,000 claimants will be reassessed by October 2015. This includes people who report a change in circumstances, those whose time-limited award comes to an end and young people turning 16.
The remainder had previously been told to expect to be contacted between October 2013 and March 2016 about their reassessment. Now they will not be reassessed until October 2015 at the earliest.
Ms McVey argued that this would enable the Government to learn from an independent review of the new system planned for 2014. She said: “This means we can learn from the early introduction of PIP – testing our process, and making sure the assessment is working correctly before we embark on higher volumes.”
Mark Lever, Chief Executive of The National Autistic Society, expressed concern that Ms McVey had set out numbers of people expected to lose their benefits, arguing that it suggested the assessments might not be conducted fairly.
“It is concerning that in making her statement to Parliament, Disabilities Minister Esther McVey set out very clearly the numbers of people who she believed will qualify for the new benefit.
“The Government must ensure that all assessments are conducted independently and fairly and arbitrary targets are not placed on assessors, as the process is rolled out”
Steve Winyard, co-chair of the Hardest Hit coalition, said: “This is a cruel and unwanted early Christmas “present” for disabled people already hardest hit by the Government’s austerity programme.”
“Back in 2010 the Prime Minister promised to protect the most vulnerable while seeking to reduce the deficit. However this has been totally forgotten as disabled people experience deep cuts to their benefits, services and rights. Last week it was the reduction in the value of Employment and Support Allowance, today it is entitlement to DLA/PIP.”