Monday, 17 June 2013
PIP: A Step in the Right Direction
It isn't often we can say it, but the disability lobby has today forced the DWP to take a step backwards in their never-ending erosion of the rights of disabled people, by forcing them to go back to consultation on the 20m limit imposed in the Personal Independence Payment regulations (the replacement for DLA brought in by the Coalition with the intention of slashing eligibility for disabled people by at least 20%).
As WTB readers may know, one of our contributors, Latent Existence, has been in the process of taking the DWP to a Judicial Review in the High Court over their consultation/sleight-of-hand in respect to the PIP regulations, where every draft set of regs that was put out for consultation set the eligibility for the Higher Rate of the PIP Mobility Component at being unable to walk 50m (as with DLA), but where the version laid before Parliament suddenly reduced this to a nonsensical 20m. DWP explained that 20m had always been their intention and that they were only altering the wording in order to remove confusion. The only confusion apparent to most of us was in our mistaken belief that the DWP had actually engaged in a genuine consultation exercise.
DWP stated before the Select Committee on Work and Pensions that their intention with the shorter limit was that 20m was enough to get people from disabled parking to inside a supermarket, but as (wheelchair-using) Committee Chair Dame Anne Begg pointed out in reply, there's not much point in just getting as far as the doorway. Most drastically, this change would result in many disabled people currently in receipt of the Higher Rate Mobility Compenent of DLA and who can walk between 20m and 50m, a number likely in the tens of thousands range, losing their eligibility to lease a wheelchair or car under the Motability Scheme, and thereby being excluded from participation in their local community, and in many cases losing their ability to work.
Having had DWP inflict a ridiculous limit on us in a clearly underhanded fashion, consulting on one limit and then slashing it by more than in half in the actual legislation, there were clear grounds for challenging the legality of the consultation via a Judicial Review, a process which was set in motion through Jane Young of Spartacus, with Latent Existence as one of the three test cases put forward. Today, even before that Judicial Review reached court, DWP have backed down and stated that they will be holding a new consultation process on the final PIP regulations starting in late June (i.e. imminently).
As Latent Existence says in his own blog, this is not a final victory. DWP have been consistently duplicitous in their handling of consultations with disabled people over the past several years. It was their calculated misrepresentation of responses by disabled people to the 2011 consultation into DLA that led to the original Spartacus Report and several notable defeats for the government in the House of Lords (which were sadly overturned by the Coalition majority in the Commons). The fact that DWP are holding another consultation is a sign that they did not feel their original PIP consultation would stand up when taken before a judge, but holding a consultation and taking notice of it are two separate processes. What we now need to do is ensure that the new consultation process is conducted in a fair manner, that pressure is brought to change the 20m limit through the consultation process, through MPs, disabled peoples' organisations and disability charities, and that the final report of the consultation adequately reflects the views submitted by disabled people, rather than what DWP would like the tabloid media to believe we said. We may have won this round, but that just wins us the right to start the struggle for our rights all over again.