Fears over changes to disability benefit

In 2013 the Government replaced DLA with PIP for adults with disabilties (stock image). Picture: JUP

In 2013 the Government replaced DLA with PIP for adults with disabilties (stock image). Picture: JUPITERIMAGES - Credit: www.jupiterimages.com

Changes in the benefit system have left people with disabilities in Ipswich struggling to make ends meet, a charity has claimed.

Turn2us says the move from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has seen many of those in the town who desperately rely on the extra cash stripped of their entitlement.

Alison Taylor, director of operations for Turn2us, said: “Not receiving PIP after previously receiving DLA can have sudden and devastating consequences at a time when people are least resilient.”

The charity, which helps people in poverty, says applicants find the new process, which involves a medical assessment, difficult and will often fail without help.

In 2013 the Government replaced DLA with PIP, a non-means tested payout for people aged 16 to 64 who have care and mobility needs as a result of their disability. Everyone on DLA will eventually have to make a new claim for PIP, even if they were previously granted a lifetime or indefinite award under the old system.

Pat Ramsey, manager of Ipswich Disabled Advice Bureau, said although many of her clients were better off since making the switch, the procedure was a lot to handle for those who had been receiving disability benefits for decades without question.

She added: “If you are told you have something indefinitely, you just see it as the norm and so that’s something you don’t have to think about anymore, and now they do have to think about it.

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“Previously they just filled in a form, and some people were very young when that happened. Now 25 years down the road and they are in a totally different situation.”

However, Ms Ramsey said she felt it was right to review claims periodically, perhaps every five to 10 years.

She said: “If they had some treatment which has improved their circumstances then it’s right to reduce the amount of benefits they get because there are lots of people who could with that help.

“It’s something that is for all of us. It’s a pot of money that has to be spread around.”

PIP is made up of two components - mobility and daily living - which can be paid at a lower or higher rate, depending on the claimant’s needs.

Ms Ramsey fears the lower mobility payout will be removed or reduced in the future.

She said: “It’s concerning because that covers people who yes they can walk alright but they can’t find their way around or go out with confidence.

“Quite often it will be vulnerable people with mental health problems, memory problems or learning difficulties.

“That money will pay for their taxi fares, and if people can’t go out they get isolated and additional problems can happen.

“If they don’t already have mental health problems they may develop them and get very depressed.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said 27% of people received the highest possible amount with PIP, compared to 15% under DLA.

He added: “PIP replaces the outdated DLA system and takes a much wider look at the way someone’s health condition or disability impacts on them.

“Decisions are made following consideration of all information provided by the claimant and their GP or medical specialist.”

Anyone who disagrees with a PIP decision can appeal.

There are currently 3,226 people in Ipswich receiving PIP, according to Turn2us.

For free help relating to PIP, visit Ipswich Disabled Advice Bureau at its office in Tower Street or call: 01473 217313.