DAVID Cameron’s controversial welfare changes for disabled people in Scotland, England and Wales have been delayed, it emerged yesterday.
People will move from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) this week only in certain areas instead of the whole of Great Britain as originally planned.
The postponement of parts of the scheme led to claims from Labour and the SNP that there was “chaos” in the UK government’s Department of Work and Pensions. PIP, which was piloted in the north of England in April, replaces DLA for working-age claimants, which was introduced more than 20 years ago.
The welfare reform, which has been opposed by disability campaigners, will require claimants to undergo a face-to-face assessment and regular reviews of their ability to wash, dress, cook and get around as well as their ability to read and communicate.
UK government ministers claim the new system will support disabled people to live independent lives as well as address the financial challenges posed by the DLA system. When DLA was introduced in 1992, it covered 1.1 million people, at a cost of around £3 billion. Those figures have since risen to 3.3 million people at a cost of more than £12bn a year.
However, critics say the reform does not deal adequately with the cost of living with a disability, and are worried about the quality of assessment. Some welfare campaigners have warned that a number of people who would qualify for the DLA will not meet the criteria for the PIP.
Yesterday, work and pensions minister Mike Penning said reassessing people was “taking longer than expected”, but introducing the scheme “gradually” was beneficial.
The delay means that Scottish claimants will remain on DLA for the time being. The same will apply to some claimants south of the Border, except those in Wales, the east and west Midlands and East Anglia, who will transfer to PIP from tomorrow if they are deemed suitable to make the change.
The government said the need for the delay had only came to light at the beginning of October.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said Labour’s claim of chaos over the changes was “wrong”, saying it planned to introduce them in a “phased” manner.
But Rachel Reeves, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “The delivery problems we are seeing at the Department for Work and Pensions now risk descending into farce. But for thousands of disabled people who are already extremely anxious about the changes, this is no joke. Not only is David Cameron’s government out of touch but it’s increasingly incompetent.”
Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, SNP work and pensions spokeswoman, added: “The DWP appears to be descending into a shambles and this creates very real uncertainty and worry for people anxious about proposed welfare changes.”