I was at a disability conference today. Amongst the various different speakers there were two staff members from local branches of jobcentre plus. They'd been asked to talk about the new Personal Independence Payment or PIP which will be replacing DLA.
I was sitting at the back with the vice chair of a disability group which is very influential within Oxfordshire. We'd like to think that we're both pretty clued up on the changes that will be coming in the next year or so. Or at least as clued up as it's possible to be when the exact details of the changes still haven't been decided and/or announced.
Within the first five minutes of that talk we both went "that's not right." Because not only was the talk highlighting just how badly the changes have been thought out, it was also becoming clear that the speakers understanding of the changes didn't match reality.
PIP comes in next April. According to the speaker existing DLA claimants will then be written too to be offered the chance to apply for PIP instead if they are likely to be better off or remain on DLA until their award ends if thats what they'd be better off on. I have an indefinite award of DLA (I have cerebral palsy - a life long condition that is incurable and doesn't improve) and the way the talk was given it appeared that I have the choice to remain on DLA indefinitely and never move to PIP. If that was a real choice it's the one I'd make.
The reality of the matter is: PIP comes in next April for new claimants and reassessments. She's right about that.
Some DLA claimants may at that point chose to claim to PIP. She's right about that.
But starting in October next year all DLA claimants regardless of whether their award is time limited or indefinite will be reassessed on a rolling basis until everyone is moved to PIP. There is no consideration of which benefit suits people better or choice in the matter. Just like the Incapacity Benefit to ESA migration this is forced upon us. That wasn't clear in that talk.
I went to speak to the them after and asked for clarification of the situation with an indefinite DLA award. And after checking their notes they agreed that it has no effect on PIP migration. I got correct information. But we have a room of in the region of 50 disabled
people who were given unclear information or which is could even be argued
Changes to benefits mean it's possible fines of up to £50 a time could be levied against people who make mistakes or omit information when filling out benefit forms. If staff on the front line of benefits services don't know the information that's needed how can the disabled people whose very lives it affects be expected to know?
It's a shame each person at that event couldn't levy the same fine against the jobcentre staff for failing to make their talk clear. We could use it to fund our next event - and to support each other through these changes in a way that doesn't seem available at the moment.