Flash Says…

Posts Tagged ‘pip

Definition:
Fear of Brown Envelopes – a state of anxiety caused by receiving a dark manila DL envelope, with a return address of the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP).

Without exception my disabled friends are united by concern about benefit cuts, often worrying about bad news. At Christmas bonus time, or when the new tax year starts, people tweet to remind each other not to panic when something ominous and brown lands on their doormat.

Many disabled folk are also scared of being “reported” – programmes like “Saints and Scroungers” and “Benefits Street” don’t help the public perception. Even if it is completely unfounded, when a report is made (by someone hiding behind anonymity) the disabled person’s benefit claim is re-assessed. Why, if we are legitimately disabled, do we fear re-assessment? For that, you need to consider the difference between Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and the newer Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Many people with a long-term condition which is unlikely to improve, like me, are on an ‘indefinite’ DLA award. When I was assessed, it was awarded on the basis that walking 50 metres – while then sometimes was possible without mobility aids – would be dangerous for me, and/or cause me pain, which needs me to rest and recover as a consequence. I’ve always described this as “the less I do, the better I am”. However, the newer PIP system merely asks whether I can “mobilise” a distance of 20 metres, by whatever means. Of course this lower criterion is intended to reduce the number of awards made, and save the government money. Sod the fact that it’s further than 20 metres to my nearest shop, bus stop or postbox, and I often can’t park within 20 metres of my doctors’ surgery or hospital clinics either.

There are other issues with PIP which are well documented elsewhere; such as the cost to bring in PIP (supposedly done to save £1.2bn a year, it’s actually costing £1.6bn more); despite only 0.5% of DLA claims being fraudulent (according to the government’s own figures) they intend PIP will reduce disability claimants by over 20%; as well as the ridiculous suggestion that 20m is as far as anyone needs to be able to move. So now you can see why many lifetime DLA recipients fear they will not be awarded PIP at reassessment. It is clear that many people will still have their disabling condition, but will lose the support that benefits provide.

And if somebody, maliciously or well-meaning, reports a disabled person to the DWP, that person will be reassessed. Not against the criteria of the award they currently hold, but against the new, harsher, criteria of PIP.

This next comment may sound silly, given that friends, neighbours & even strangers tell me how confident and strong I am – but I too harbour that fear. In fact I thought seriously before writing this blog, hoping nobody with ill-intent is reading. My DLA is my only income – for everything else I rely on my husband’s support. And I depend upon it. Not only is it important for practical things, but I also need it for self-esteem: to validate the fact that it isn’t my fault that I can’t work, that I am in genuine need, that the state recognises this and supports me with a small amount of money (which I use for minicab journeys and extra hours for my PA-cum-cleaner) .

So, when I go out to the corner shop of an evening, sometimes just popping out quickly without my stick, if there’s an unfamiliar face hanging out on the street corner, or a car parked nearby with someone waiting in it, it *always* crosses my mind that they may be spying on me. Waiting for me to slip up. I wonder if my limp is obvious, or if it’s too dark for them to see the grimace on my face or the way I’ve stuffed a fist into my back to keep myself upright through the pain. Watchers don’t know that I’m only going to the nearest shop (less than 50 metres) for a single lightweight item. Or that if that shop has run out I have to return empty handed, because the next shop, just across the road, is too far for me to visit and return from without going back for my stick. And they certainly won’t know how much I’ll have to rest afterwards (after all, nobody sees you behind closed doors, only for the limited time when you’re well enough to get out and about).

Maybe this sounds like a pity party, but I assure you the fear is real. Some day, all DLA recipients will be transferred to PIP, and I’m worried that I’ll be one of the genuine disabled people who will lose out. After all, somebody will, and I have the disadvantage of “looking normal”. And if I lose my highest rate mobility allowance then I lose my entitlement to a blue badge, meaning I won’t be able to park in a space wide enough for me to get in and out of the car door. I’d also lose many other local travel benefits. And as well as the mobility aspect, there are my care needs too – currently I have a wonderful PA who keeps me and my house straight. Without these things I – a strong, independent and often outspoken woman – could end up stuck at home, feeling isolated and increasingly depressed. If it could do that to me, imagine the impact on someone less confident or unable to advocate for themself.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what the point of this article will be. Well, this was all triggered by an incident yesterday. I was feeling quite well for a change, and decided to do something productive with the energy. So I loaded the dishwasher, as a surprise for my husband and in an attempt to make the kitchen a little less grungy. It took perhaps a minute to shift a few bowls and pans from the worktop to the machine underneath. Partway through, it began to hurt. When I finished, I had stabbing, burning pain in the back of my pelvis. I went to sit on support cushions, to double dose my meds and rest. It took nearly an hour before the pain had subsided to a point where I could get up again.

One minute of activity. One hour of rest as a result. You can see why physical disability often leads to depression. Then I realised: this happened in private, without witnesses. Nobody else would ever know, they only have my word for it. And because I “look normal”, why would any person who sees me think I am less than able to undertake even such simple routine chores?

So I too, like so many of my disabled friends, live in fear of brown envelopes. This should not have to be the case.


If you have been interested by this article, I encourage you to consider sharing it, and to remember that you can never tell how someone is feeling just by looking at them.

Today on Twitter you will see many disabled people and charities saying “I support the #SpartacusReport”. So what is this report and what does it mean?

The Spartacus Report is a piece of research, released today, entitled “Responsible Reform”. It looks at responses to a government consultation about replacing Disability Living Allowance. The report was funded and written by disabled people, and we feel it belongs to us.

Disability Living Allowance is an essential payment, made to people with disabling conditions to compensate them for the additional costs of mobility, and/or care. It is paid whether or not the recipient is able to work, and in many cases makes the difference between being able to leave the house – and go to work – or being stuck at home. For more information on how essential DLA is to people, see my previous articles The real difference made by DLA and DLA – the gateway benefit.

In December 2010 the government opened a consultation on replacing DLA with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). They had already said that 20% of DLA payments had to be cut, although the government’s own figures accepts that less than 1% of claims are fraudulent. So where would these cuts come from?

A response was published by Iain Duncan Smith, secretary of state for work and pensions, in April 2011. This document claimed to outline the responses of the consultation – from over 5000 individuals and 500 organisations – and the government’s reply to it. However, it glossed over the overwhelming opposition to the proposal of PIP.

Something had to be done. Sue Marsh (“suey2y”) and other disability campaigners joined forces. They came up with the “Spartacus report”. The Responsible Reform report gives the truth of the responses, having obtained copies of the organisations’ responses via a Freedom of Information request.

It shows that
• 92% of respondents opposed the proposal to change from 3 different levels of the Care component, to 2 levels
• 87% of respondents opposed the stopping of automatic entitlement to DLA
• 98% opposed changing the qualifying period from having the disabling condition for 3 months, to having it for 6 months before claiming
• 90% opposed the introduction of new face to face assessments
• 92% opposed change to the review system
• 88% said that aids that a person uses should not be considered when assessing them
• 88% opposed a new change-of-circumstance system involving sanctions
• 94% oppose the introduction of compulsory advice and support
• 64% said that one-off costs should be funded by DLA – it is not clear what this question actually involves
• 100% opposed the removal of DLA mobility component for residents of care homes, and the government have since rescinded this
• 99% oppose the removal or streamlining of passporting (i.e. using DLA as a gateway benefit to other services)
• 54% support the sharing of information between departments

In section after section, the conclusion is “The Government fails to respond to the concerns and suggestions of disabled people”.

It is clear that disabled people don’t want DLA to be overhauled or replaced with PIP, not because it isn’t working, but precisely because it is. The government needs to find the money to sustain DLA payments at their current rates, otherwise disabled people will be the ones who pay the price, by being stuck at home unable to afford transport costs, or lost without essential aids, unable to pay for the prepared food they need because they are unable to cook, or unable to fund the care they require. Please do read The real difference made by DLA in order to understand exactly what disabled people stand to lose. It’s more than just independence and dignity.

So what can you do about this? Read the report: Shortened Report – Responsible Reform and Shortened Press Release. If you’re on twitter, show your support using the #SpartacusReport hashtag. Contact your MP saying something like “This report into Disability Allowance Reform has been written, researched and funded by disabled people. As one of your constituents, I am very concerned by its findings and the misrepresentation of disabled people that it exposes. Please will you read the report and support sick and disabled people in calling for a pause to Personal Independence Payments in light of this new research. I look forward to your response.” You can contact your MP using the Write to them website.

Even if you are lucky enough not to be disabled yourself or have any disabled relatives, remember that disability can strike anyone. It is just one car crash, or stroke, or fall, away. One in two people will be disabled at some point in their lifetime. You too may find yourself dependent on disability benefits. Can you afford to ignore this report?

[Crossposted to Where’s the Benefit? where I am one of the team]

The government’s proposed changes to DLA have been much reported – and you can see articles about why it matters on Flash Says and across the blogosphere, including Where’s the Benefit of course. The news that 20% of people will no longer qualify, and that the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will become harder to obtain than the existing system is a bitter blow to those who worked hard just to demonstrate their entitlement. Indeed, it is reported in the news today that the proposed change from DLA to PIP could breach human rights laws; the fight to save DLA goes on.

But I think there is one more important aspect to DLA that has been overlooked; it is a gateway to many other things.

By that I mean that the standards for mobility and care levels are fairly well defined; organisations which deal with disabled people and assess their need can simply look at the individual’s DLA award to understand what that person’s needs might be, rather than reinventing the wheel and creating their own assessment system. In many cases, receipt of DLA at a certain level provides automatic entitlement to other benefits and services.

For example, here are some useful schemes for which you would automatically qualify, if you get DLA at the levels specified

  • Disabled person’s railcard – Any mobility award, or higher or middle rate care
  • Warm Front scheme – a grant for heating and insulation work – Any DLA award
  • Disability Premium – extra money if you are on income-related benefits – Any DLA award, although middle or higher rate care entitles you to a higher amount, the “severe disability premium”

and the items below are awarded if you have a Higher rate mobility award:

  • Freedom Pass – free travel on London Transport
  • Blue badge
  • Taxicard – reduced fares on London taxis
  • Dial-a-Ride
  • Refund on road vehicle tax
  • Motability scheme
  • National bus pass (in Scotland, higher or middle rate care award also qualifies)

Indeed, it was reported in the Northern Echo this week that “claiming [Disability Living Allowance] not only benefits the recipient and helps stimulate the local economy, it also simplifies the Blue Badge process. This is because people are automatically entitled to a Blue Badge if they are in receipt of the higher rate of the Disability Living Allowance mobility component so don’t need medical evidence to show they have mobility problems and so there are fewer appeals against the refusal of the badge.”

Many other organisations use DLA as a method of determining entitlement – it is a simple way to demonstrate need, and it’s rather less embarrassing than asking someone’s medical history at the front desk. For example many museums, theatres and concert venues will allow a “carer” to enter with you for free. Waving your letter from the DWP can get you the help or concession that you need!

Glastonbury and other festivals also use DLA as a guide to need – for example, in order to access facilities such as disabled camping, accessible toilets and viewing platforms, as well as being permitted a free ticket for your personal assistant, you need to be in receipt of higher rate mobility, and/or middle or higher rate care DLA. (If you don’t claim DLA then you can always make your case to the access co-ordinator, but then provision is discretionary rather than automatic, which can make for a nervous few weeks until you hear whether your application is approved!)

I also haven’t heard anything about how the Motability scheme will operate after the demise of DLA. Over half a million people use the scheme and will be part way through a contract when the changes come into force. Will PIP be enough to fund Motability car hire? How about those whose award level is changed after a PIP medical assessment – how will they be able to afford the car, scooter or powerchair that they need?

When DLA is replaced with PIP, things are going to get complicated. After all, the government has stated that it wants to get 20% of people off this type of benefit, but those people’s needs won’t go away. They will be left with no easy way to demonstrate their level of disability. Organisations won’t have a clear understanding of what the relevant levels of PIP correspond with – at least, not straight away. Will old DLA letters be able to be used? For how long, until everyone is required to hold a PIP entitlement instead?

People may be up in arms at the thought of losing DLA, and frustrated at the thought of having to apply for a new benefit – but they should also be fearful of losing the many extra benefits that they use, with no easy route to prove their need once the DLA rug is pulled from under us all.