Monday 24 June 2013

#PIP 20m Consultation: It's All About Cost

The new DWP Consultation on the restriction of PIP Higher Rate Mobility Component to people unable to walk 20m rather than unable to walk 50m is now available here with a closing date for responses of 5th August 2013.

Background to the need for a repeat of the consultation process and why 20m is completely inappropriate is available in our PIP: 20 Metre Primer.

As pointed out by Sue Marsh, and by Steven Sumpter who was responsible for bringing the Judicial Review of the original PIP consultation and which forced DWP into this new consultation, a particularly interesting aspect of the new consultation is that, while claiming the intention is to be completely open about whether 20m meets the needs of people with mobility disabilities, it then immediately contradicts itself by making clear that the deciding factors will be how many people will receive the Higher Rate Mobility Component under any revised criteria and the cost to the welfare budget. This confirms, as disabled people have alleged from the outset, that the sole driving force behind the replacement of DLA with PIP is reducing the welfare budget, not tailoring the benefit to the needs of disabled people as the Coalition has repeatedly claimed.

In fact the Consultation document includes the DWP's own modelling of the number of people who would be entitled to the Mobility Components of DLA, of PIP under the 2nd Draft (consulted on) and of PIP under the final regulations (not consulted on). This shows entitlement to the Higher Rate Mobility Component dropping from 1,030,000 under DLA to 652,000 under the PIP 2nd Draft and to 602,000 under the final PIP regulations. That means even the Coalition and the DWP admit that under the PIP regulations as they currently stand, 428,000 disabled people will lose Higher Rate Mobility Component, together with their eligibility for leasing a car or wheelchair under the Motability scheme. That means 428,000 disabled people who may no longer be able to engage with their local community, many of whom may well lose jobs as a result.

The impact of the PIP mobility changes will be devastating for hundreds of thousands of disabled people and it is vital that as many disabled people and groups as possible respond to the consultation and explain the impact of the 20m limit under the currently imposed regulations.

Sunday 23 June 2013

We Know Where You Live!

Is there any more chilling threat? It’s one I heard for real a couple of years ago, three men in their 50s yelling it across the high street at me as I walked to the bank one afternoon. “This is the DWP! We know where you live! We know that you’re faking!” As disabled people, this is a reality we have had to grow used to as the tabloids teach the public that every disabled person is really a conniving faker, intent on cheating them out of their hard-won pay. I am into double figures with incidents of verbal abuse, and the Scope surveys of disability hate crime suggest that my experience is the new norm for disabled people.

Yet in the Mail on Sunday this weekend, Mark Littlewood, Director of the Institute for Economic Affairs, authored a column calling for the names and addresses of every benefit recipient in the country, and how much of a ‘handout’ they receive, to be published online in a database accessible to everyone. Disingenuously he claims “The British are far too reasonable to start taking up pitchforks and burning torches and assaulting imagined benefit cheats.” As a disabled person I wish he was right about the British, but the two yobs who tried to assault me for walking while disabled didn’t seem too reluctant.

Two years on, I don’t know who it was who reported me to the DWP National Benefit Fraud Hotline, claiming I was working full time when I’m lucky to get out of the house for a couple of hours a week, but, like 96% of reports to the Benefit Fraud Hotline, that report was vindictive and completely false. Fortunately the DWP investigator accepted that the instant she laid eyes on me, but there was no comeback against my anonymous accuser, and, no matter my innocence, the consequences for me were a three month flare-up in my pain levels and I really, really don’t want to go back to my pain levels being so high that I’m lucky to get an hour’s sleep at a time. 

Nor were the consequences simply physical, when the time came to renew my ESA claim I found myself having panic attacks, something which had never happened before, and the thought of going through another Work Capability Assessment – my first had been utterly abusive – was just intolerable. So for the sake of my health I let myself be driven by the hate and the abuse out of claiming a benefit I was entitled to.

Friend, neighbour, casual acquaintance, someone who saw me speaking out against disability hate crimes in the media or online, I don’t know who it was who filed that malicious report against me, but a blunter term for ‘malicious’ might be conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and, even without any basis in truth, the consequences of those allegations were serious.

Such on-street harassment, false accusations and outright assault are far from unusual for disabled people, but if my details, or the details of those even more vulnerable, are available online, then how much easier will it be for the thugs to track me down, or the poison-pen types to spew their bile to the Benefit Fraud Hotline?

Mark Littlewood, the Institute for Economic Affairs and the Mail on Sunday can make their pious pronouncements that they are sure no harm will come of their modest proposal, but the truth for disabled people and other benefit claimants is likely to be far harsher.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

#PIP: A 20 Metre Primer

With DWP forced into a new consultation over limiting the PIP mobility component only to people unable to walk further than 20m (after carrying out a prior consultation in which every draft said 50m, as was the case with DLA), I thought I would put together a quick primer based on the PIP-related posts that have appeared on Where's the Benefit over the past few months. There is a lot wrong with PIP, but only the 20m mobility limit is up for consultation again, so the links will necessarily concentrate on that. We don't yet know when the consultation will open, DWP said 'late June', but we will bring you the details as soon as we have them. It's important that we get as many people as possible responding to it, and hopefully this list of articles will serve to get you started in your responses.

News Coverage of the New 20 Metre Consultation

Disability campaigners celebrate 'victory' after government rethink - The Independent

Here's a Chance to Fight for Disabled People's Mobility - Jane Young's (@theyoungjane) piece for Comment is Free in the Guardian.

PIP: A Step in the Right Direction - my (@WTBDavidG) piece here on Where's The Benefit on the new consultation.

Background to the Judicial Review

Legal Action Against the DWP over the PIP Consultation - Stephen Sumpter's (@LatentExistence) original WTB piece on why disabled people had to call for a Judicial Review of the 20m limit.

PIP Faces Legal Challenge - background piece by Sue Marsh (@Suey2y) on the PIP changes and why a Judicial Review of the 20m mobility limit was needed.

The Effects of PIP 20m Mobility and Why it Needs to Change

Well over 100,000 to lose Motability vehicles under draconian new rules - Jane Young on the drastic consequences of the PIP changes for disabled people.

If you can only walk 20m you'll get no help - Another piece by Stephen Sumpter for WTB on the effects of the PIP 20m limit.

20 Metres, Coming Up Short - WTB piece by me on how PIP 20m mobility limit meets the real world, and fails miserably.

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.