Fran McSweeney, Senior Manager for the RNIB Advice Service, stopped by tell Enable readers more about the next stage of changes to disability welfare benefits.
After a number of months of speculation, debate and the publication of the official regulations, April sees the first stage of the Government’s change from paying the benefit of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
It is estimated that over 600,000 fewer people will be receiving PIP in 2018, when the full roll-out is completed, than would have been receiving DLA. This figure doesn’t even include those who will get a reduced rate.
From 8 April, a controlled start of a few thousand new PIP claims for those aged 16-64 will be rolled out. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will introduce PIP for new claims in Merseyside, North West England, Cumbria, Cheshire and North East England. During this period, new claimants in all other parts of the country will continue to claim DLA as normal. Then from 10 June, DWP will take new claims for PIP from all parts of the country. From October 2013 to October 2015, people will be invited to make a claim if their DLA is up for renewal, if they report a change in circumstances or if they wish to have their original claim for DLA re-assessed (known as ‘self-selecting’).
As being ill or having a disability can often make life more expensive, PIP is a benefit that is meant to help people with the extra costs caused by illness or disability – including sight loss. These benefits are essential in making a key difference to retaining or regaining independence as well as combating the isolation faced by many disabled people.
Whether your claim is successful or not will depend on your individual circumstances. PIP is meant to help with daily living activities and getting out and around. Because of this, it is split into two parts or ‘components’:
- a daily living component
- a mobility component
Each component then has two rates:
- a standard rate for people who DWP decide have a limited ability to carry out daily living or mobility activities because of their physical or mental condition
- an enhanced rate for people who DWP decide have a severely limited ability to carry out daily living or mobility activities because of their physical or mental condition
The claiming process
DWP will split the process of claiming PIP into two parts:
- the first part takes place over the phone and this is where DWP will take initial details of your claim
- in the second part, DWP will automatically generate your claim form and send it to you. Your claim form will include a barcode (to uniquely identify you) and some parts of it will already be completed for you (your name, address and date of birth, for example)
When you claim PIP, it is very likely that you will be asked to attend a face-to-face consultation. This consultation will consider your individual circumstances across twelve activities such as preparing food and drink, bathing and grooming, reading and understanding signs, symbols and words, and making financial decisions. Two of the activities relate to the mobility component and are based on planning and following a journey, and moving around.
The activities include a greater acknowledgement of aids and appliances than there was for DLA, and the need for them may lead to increased points for you. For example, for people with sight loss this could include a magnifier or something to help you carry out a task such as a liquid level indicator or braille on shower controls. We will not know exactly how DWP views using these aids until the PIP assessment process starts.
Just how PIP will work in reality, and the impact it will have on people’s lives, is still unknown and it will be a few months before the stories behind the assessments start to come through.
Kawal Gucukoglu, who is registered blind and currently receives DLA, will not have to go through the reassessment process until 2015 but is still concerned that any reduction in her benefits will mean she would no longer be able to live independently.
Kawal said: “The help I currently get from DLA is not a luxury; it means that I can live independently. I need additional equipment in order to carry out simple tasks that other people take for granted such as read my mail, use the internet and make myself food safely. All this equipment costs money and it soon adds up.
“Without my DLA I wouldn’t be able to afford to get taxis to places that I can’t easily reach by walking or by bus. I don’t have the support of family and friends at home so this extra money is vital to ensuring I can continue living the life I want to.”
RNIB has a range of information and fact sheets available at www.rnib.org.uk/pipbenefit covering how the benefit will be applied, what steps the individual will need to take themselves, how the assessment will work and more. If you would like to speak to someone directly, the RNIB Helpline is available between 8.45am and 5.30pm, Monday to Friday on 0303 123 9999.
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