17 June 2011
Action for M.E. has been approached by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), to help find people with M.E. who are claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to take part in a consultation.
They are looking for volunteers who would be willing to test the draft assessment regulations for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which will replace DLA.
The deadline for volunteering is 30 June.
Although, as we have already stated, DLA is a highly valued benefit that people with M.E. cannot do without – and both Action for M.E. and other charities have identified their concerns about PIP assessments - the Government seem intent on pressing ahead with the new plans.
Under these circumstances, we cannot ignore an opportunity to try to make sure that the needs of people with M.E. are reflected in those plans.
If you are claiming DLA and you would like to take part in the test, please read the DWP’s email below then contact Action for M.E.’s Policy Officer Tris Rodriguez as soon as possible before 30 June.
What do other M.E. organisations think?
Other M.E. organisations’ reactions to the DWP’s request have been mixed.
The 25% Group has counselled its members against participation, saying: “We understand that the purpose of this exercise is to fine tune the points system for the new PIP benefit so that the DWP can be certain that the introduction of PIP will mean that savings can be made.”
However, Forward ME. has said, “It would make sense for the M.E. community to take part in this project in the belief that things are better put right in the developmental stages than when it is too late.” The ME Association has gone further, saying it is “vital” that people who currently claim DLA take part.
What does participation involve?
The email we received from the DWP’s DLA Reform Assessment Development Unit says:
“As you're aware, last Monday DWP published initial draft assessment regulations/criteria for Personal Independence Payment.
“We're currently seeking views on this initial draft of the assessment criteria and we then plan to test its likely impact during the summer.
“As part of the testing we're keen to understand better the likely impact on some specific impairment groups.
“At this point, one key impairment group we'd like to look at is ME and we're therefore wondering if Action for ME would be able and willing to help us to secure volunteers for our testing.
“We're approaching particular disability organisations to help with this as we're keen to provide an opportunity for representative groups to be involved in the testing process. You're also likely to have strong links with your members which we hope would help us to secure volunteers who might be harder for us to reach, ensuring that we capture how the draft criteria are working across a range of customers.
“I've attached a one page note [see below] with more detail, but in brief the testing will take place from June to September, using current Disability Living Allowance volunteers without affecting their benefit entitlement.
“A customer would take part in a single, one hour, face-to-face consultation with a healthcare professional from G4S Medical Services, a company working on behalf of DWP.
“After the completed appointment, they would receive a £30 high street voucher* as a token of appreciation. Of course, the information collected will be treated in the strictest confidence; all records will be anonymous and will be destroyed after the testing.
“To enable us to look in detail at the impact of the assessment on individuals with ME we'd be looking to secure ideally 65 volunteers from across the DLA rate combinations.
“We would need to know the customer's name, telephone number and address and their current DLA award rate combination (for our internal use only - if they're unsure of this, we could look it up for them using their National Insurance Number).
“In order to enable G4S to organise appointments in time, I would need to have this information by 30 June 2011.
“Please note that the process outlined in the attached note (LINK) would be slightly different for those volunteers who aren't randomly selected by the Department - I would pass their contact details directly to G4S who would then call them to arrange an appointment.
“G4S may not call all those who initially agree to take part as they may secure enough volunteers without having to do so.
“For background information, the initial draft assessment regulations/criteria for Personal Independence Payment, an explanatory technical note and six additional policy briefings can be found at the below link: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/policy/welfare-reform/legislation-and-key-documents/welfare-reform-bill-2011/personal-independence-payment-briefing/.”
*NB. The DWP has issued an assurance that the £30 voucher payment will not affect benefit payments.