DISABILITY minister Maria Miller has confirmed the new Personal Independence Payment that will be phased in during 2013-14 to replace Disability Living Allowance will also be non-means tested.
But it will mean that disabled claimants will, unlike under the current system, be subjected to regular reassessments to ensure their entitlement.
The benefit changes follows one of the biggest ever consultations at the Department for Work and Pensions with more than 5500 responses from disabled people and disability organisations.
Maria Miller said: “Disabled people are at the heart of our welfare reform plans and severely disabled people who need extra help and support will always get it.
“That’s why we have spent the last few months working closely with disabled people and disability organisations to make sure we are making the right changes to DLA.
“We’ve listened to what they have told us and we will be working with them to make sure that the new Personal Independence Payment does what it should.
“We have also said that we won’t remove the mobility component from care home residents in 2012 and instead we are reviewing the mobility component as part of our wider reforms of DLA.”
The new measures have caused more concerns from disability groups who fear disabled people will become less independent as a direct result of reduced incomes.
A spokesperson for the Disability Benefits Consortium, a national coalition of over 40 charities and other organisations committed to working towards a fair benefits system, said:
“It is crucial that as disabled people get moved over from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment, that they continue to receive the same level of financial support to meet their additional care and mobility needs.
“Disabled people are already far more likely to live on low incomes, to experience problem debt and to face fuel poverty, and any cuts to the amount they receive could have a devastating impact.
“If the new benefit reduces the amount of support people receive and the number of people who can receive it, then there is a real risk that disabled people will lose out on the independence and opportunities non-disabled people take for granted.”
The Consortium is also worried that time people will need to wait before claiming the new benefit will is being extended from three months to six months.
“Many people already find themselves in debt during the existing qualifying period,” said the spokesperson, “and there is a risk that lengthening this will leave people even worse off.
“How individuals will be assessed for Personal Independence Payment is also a concern.
“At the moment the Government is saying the new test will look at just the bare essentials, such as “washing” – things that everybody expects, rather than on enabling people to be as independent as possible.
“But the Government plans to take some account of aids and adaptations when assessing people for the benefit. The use of an aid or adaptation does not mean extra costs go away, such as the need for accessible transport to get out and about or additional heating or care costs.”
Another major concern is the uncertainty of the DLA mobility component for people in residential accommodation.
“The last few months have been extremely distressing for thousands of disabled people living in residential services. Without this support people in residential care will simply be trapped at home, unable to afford to get out.
“Although the Government has said they are reviewing DLA mobility in the context of the wider reforms, we want a very clear message that disabled people living in residential care will continue to support through the mobility part of the new benefit.”
What is Disability Living Allowance?
DLA is paid to help people who cannot do things like walk or wash and dress themselves.
It provides a contribution to the extra costs severely disabled people incur, and is claimed by 3.2 million people at an annual cost of £12bn.
Currently more than 2m people get the benefit indefinitely.
Nearly a quarter of all working age people on DLA have not had any review of their claim in 10 years.
How much a week is it worth? Higher rate, £73.60; middle, £49.30; lower, £19.55. There is also a mobility component – higher rate, £51.40; lower, £19.55