Will the New ‘Personal Independence Payment’ Actually Deprive Disabled People of Their Independence?


As a former Welfare Rights Worker with C.A.B. in Pontefract and Wakefield in West Yorkshire, I’ve retained an interest in social policy developments in general, and Welfare Benefits legislation in particular. You may take the boy out of advice work, but you can never quite take advice work out of the boy – and the Citizens Advice Bureau ethos of aiming to ensure that people are not disadvantaged for a lack of help and representation still means a lot to me.

This is particularly so now, at a time when a lot of vulnerable and helpless people are being targeted by a government apparently determined to make budget savings at the sharp and painful end of life. With the intention of keeping myself up-to-date, I do plenty of reading – and this includes a lot of anecdotal experiences. The feeling out there right now appears to be one of near panic, and a hideous insecurity over what plans are being drawn up to dump the chronically sick and disabled on the scrapheap of dependence upon others, in the name, ostensibly, of prudent public spending.

One of the major worries is the forthcoming replacement of Disability Living Allowance by the new “Personal Independence Payment” (PIP). It’s a snazzy new name for a misleading product, conjuring up, as it does, an image of a newly-liberated individual, spreading metaphorical wings and savouring the new-found freedom liberally bestowed by a benevolent government. Sadly, the reality is likely to be somewhat different, as Linda Cox explains in an article – quoted in full below – which was originally posted on the Facebook page “The People Vs The Government, DWP and Atos“. Linda is a carer, and she sets out in graphic terms some likely consequences of these benefit changes, which will be taking effect in a phased introduction from April of this year:

The musings of a pissed off madwoman/wife-of-a-wheelchair-user

Say someone applying for PIP has a made to measure, lightweight wheelchair, which they paid for out of their DLA, so they can self propel, as opposed to the wheelchair clinic issue, which is a really heavy, cumbersome, monstrosity of a wheelchair, which has to be pushed by a carer.

If you can propel your lightweight wheelchair 20 metres, you fail to qualify for PIP.

So, you will need to use this chair as your only transport, as you have no benefit for a travel budget. Your chair gets used over all kinds of terrain (gravel and cobbles are the most fun), for miles as in losing your PIP, you can’t pay for your car and it is taken away. Wait… you can’t self propel as far as the local shop (and it’s uphill), let alone for over a mile into town. But as long as you can propel for 20 metres (the length of two buses)… the world is your oyster… apparently.

How do you pay for the maintenance of said wheelchair? £200 for a replacement seat, £100 for a new set of front wheels, £40 for new tyres…. all needing more frequent replacement, because of the extra usage. Where does this money come from?

I guess you could always use the hospital issue chair.. then you would need a carer to push all the time, but wait… your carer has lost their allowance, because you lost your PIP… in fact, your carer is on workfare now…. or if lucky enough, in full time employment.

Damn… this is getting complicated.

So, a wheelchair accessible cab is rare and has to be booked well in advance in order to get one…after all… there are so many wheelchair users no longer qualifying for PIP, so lots of competition for cabs now. A return trip for town is £15, that’s a lot of money to find out of well… nothing.

Let’s grab a bus… yes; buses have ramps and wheelchair spaces now! Great. Except the wheelchair spaces are all full of pushchairs. Damn… wait for the next bus. Oh dear, the next bus isn’t accessible. No point in going home in between because just getting to the bus stop has knackered you out… it’s further than 20m away and you had to keep stopping and resting on the way.

It’s pouring down with rain… not unusual in the UK… you can’t self propel in heavy rain as your tyres get slippery. Damn. Stranded. Just sit here and get soaked then and hope it stops… which it doesn’t sometimes.

Sod it. Just stay in. Who needs to see a doctor or a dentist or go to a hospital appointment… or shop for food (you can’t carry much in a wheelchair anyway – it makes it too heavy to self propel on the back and it slides off your lap…. especially on cobbles… I mentioned cobbles already, didn’t I?)

Can anyone explain to me, how when you have kept your independence, because you had DLA, the assessment for Personal Independence Payments penalises that very independence and you end up penniless and housebound?

Don’t tell me this is unintentional.

Thank you for reading.
~ Linda ~

That accusation of a new benefit, actually containing the word “Independence” in its title, yet having such a devastating effect on the hard-won independence of disabled people, who have hitherto managed alright for themselves due to their current DLA entitlement – that is deeply ironic. It’s also scandalously wrong, and potentially tragic – but sadly it remains a fact that people will believe what they are told, if they are told it often enough, no matter how outrageous the deception – as I’ve mentioned before, it’s The Big Lie in action.

These changes will happen; the determination of Cameron’s Coalition to follow their chosen course has seen to that. But this doesn’t absolve us as citizens from our responsibility for those unfortunates who will be most severely affected.

Should the disabled pay the highest price? I really don’t think so.

Surely, it’s time to stand up and be counted.

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4 responses to “Will the New ‘Personal Independence Payment’ Actually Deprive Disabled People of Their Independence?

  1. Paul Senior

    If someone is organising some sort of protest against all the rule changes and losses to disability benefits, please count me in. I myself have physical disabilities and recently suffered a heart attack, and can guarantee that I will fail in my claim for PIP when I change over from DLA, and will have to fight the lengthy and soul destroying appeal process. I have been through it twice before, for other disability claims and won both of them. These politicians need to walk a day in the shoes of someone with a disability, and see how hard it is to face each day, let alone work in an awful lot of cases. I once had an assessment for work capability, and the guy who undertook it was obviously disabled. Imagine Steven Hawking with a voice. He told me that a blind person with fingers can sort buttons, so therefore can work. That my friends, is the mentality of those with the power to make decisions about your life.

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    • I think a good starting point, Paul, would be for you to visit the Facebook page mentioned in the article, “The People Vs The Government, DWP and Atos“. The link in the article takes you there, and there are all sorts of points of view and plans – it’s a VERY active forum. Good luck to you.

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  2. Whilst I’m a seasoned campaigner against much of the PIP proposals, I do think you need to get your facts right. Under the regulations, the descriptor ‘stand and then move more than one metre but no more than 20 metres’ does NOT mean ‘stand and then sit in a wheelchair and move’. So if you can’t walk more than 20 metres, you should get the enhanced mobility component of PIP, but the logical argument about this is that 20 metres is not very far. The concern, therefore, is not that someone who can mobilise in a wheelchair 20 metres will lose out, but that someone who needs a wheelchair because being able to walk only slightly more than 20 metres isn’t much use in real life will lose out.

    I’m all for raising awareness of the Government’s shameful attack on support for disabled people but it does us no favours if we quote the law wrongly and give people incorrect information. You may be interested to know that because the 20 metre criteria for enhanced mobility component of PIP is so ridiculous, our solicitors, Leigh Day & Co, are acting for 3 DLA claimants who are concerned they will lose out. For more information etc see http://wearespartacus.org.uk/pip-factsheet/

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    • As I thought I’d made clear in my article, I was not addressing the nuts and bolts of the legislation myself, but was instead quoting from someone who is expressing her fears of what may happen, based on the perceptions that are currently out there. This is a consequence of the governments vagueness over the details of the new benefit. I would personally be very concerned as to whether the concept of “without severe discomfort” will be retained, as this is an area enshrined mainly in case law, but which acted as a useful qualifier to a crude measure of distance walked

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