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Friday, 1 June 2012

The disabled chair of an influential Commons Select Committee has spoken of her fear that some disabled people could be financially hit twice by government welfare and benefit reforms.

Dame Anne Begg MP, Chair of the Select Committee on Work and Pensions told Disability Now of her concern following the implementation of the 12 month time limit on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), and in response to comments by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith on the impact of migration from Disability Living allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIPs).

Dame Anne said: “The same person who’s getting their contributory ESA stopped after a year, who has worked all their life, could potentially be the same person who’ll be hit by the change from DLA to PIP.

Therefore people who are trying to get back to work are going to get hit at every turn and it’s going to make it harder for them to do the right thing and get back to work. And consequently they’re going to end up out of the labour market and also off the statistics completely.”

Dame Anne also expressed concern over the likely financial impact of such a loss of income on disabled people and their families.

“For some families it’s going to be a large chunk of their income because if all they’re left with is an out-of-work benefit Job-seeker’s allowance which is around £70 a week, and perhaps their housing benefit, then that could be more than half their income.”

She was speaking following statements in the national press by Mr Duncan Smith in which he estimated that the likely numbers of people to be affected by the move from DLA to PIP would be around half a million, a figure with which Dame Anne also took issue.

“I don’t think that the Department has enough information to know, based on the criteria they’ve now drawn up, how many people will qualify for the new benefit. I think they’re hoping that if the number of people who got it and still get it, were put  through the new assessment they won’t get it.”

Iain Duncan Smith singled out amputees in particular as an example of a group of people who might no longer qualify under the new PIP assessment procedures.

Dame Anne said she failed to follow the logic in this argument.

I wasn’t sure why he picked on amputees, disabled people aren’t a homogeneous mass, and amputees aren’t a homogeneous mass. So what’s the point in saying that they as a group aren’t going to be automatically entitled to it when they weren’t automatically entitled to it anyway.

Disability Now