5 October 2011
During a Conservative Party Fringe entitled ‘Welfare Reform: Benefiting disabled people?’ held by the Disability Benefits Consortium yesterday, delegates discussed reform proposals in small groups, feeding into a summing up at the close of the session. Parliamentary Manager at Sense, Simon Shaw, chaired the event.
Opening the debate, Mr Shaw detailed the role of the Disability Benefits Consortium - namely to provide a fairer benefits system for disabled people.
The Welfare Reform Bill would have a “massive impact” on disabled people and their carers, he added. The universal credit, the 12 month time limit for contributory employment and support allowance (ESA), and the change in the disability living allowance (DLA) into the personal independence payment (PiP) from 2013, were the major reforms that would impact on disabled people, Mr Shaw stated.
DLA would be replaced with new criteria and assessments, including face-to-face assessments for most, Mr Shaw stated. The system needed to be dynamic enough to meet the needs of disabled people and carers, and should not suffer from over simplification, he argued.
Disabled people and carers needed to have clarity around what they were entitled to, Mr Shaw added.
The session was broken down into individual discussion groups, to feed back at the end of the event.
During the summing up, delegates were told that assessments should not be merely of a ‘tick box’ exercise. On short term aims, assessors should be well trained and should actually work with disabled people.
A further group raised concerns that 16 year olds would be testing out the new PiP, despite being unfamiliar with assessments. The idea in the media that disabled people were ‘scroungers’ was also raised, in addition to the need for more positivity from the public to get more disabled people into work.
On an extension of disability payments, delegates were told that this would impact most on those with degenerative conditions and cancer.
The links between DLA and social care were also raised, as many people without the latter relied on the former. DLA helped keep people in work, playing a preventative function.
Mr Shaw stated that these issues would be raised with Disabilities Minister Maria Miller today. Lord Freud and other peers would be worked with, as the Welfare Reform Bill moved through the House of Lords, he added.