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Disability benefits to be shaken up

Published: 18/01/13

The government is continuing with its well publicised plan to replace the Disability Living Allowance with the new Personal Independence Payments (PIPs). The Coalition would like to pass its Welfare Reform Bill, which includes proposals to reform the DLA, by the end of the parliamentary session in May.

Ministers are planning to make significant amendments to the claims, which includes a new thorough medical assessment when people claim it and also making existing claimants undergo more rigorous testing.

The benefit was originally launched in 1992 to assist disabled people with their daily financial living costs. At its inception there were 1.1 million claimants, that figure has today nearly doubled to over 2 million people of working age.

This is a proving to be a highly emotive subject, as it can affect some of the vulnerable people in our society. Supporters of the changes say that they are long overdue, as figures show that DLA claims have been rising even as other forms of sickness and disability claims have been falling. They highlight that the largest areas of growth for DLA have been in mental health, a field that is notoriously difficult for non-specialist GPs to diagnose. They also point out that more specialist assessment of claimants is required as local doctors are not qualified to assess someone's long term disabilities, and that they do not necessarily have the skills required to diagnose stress, long term back pain and the like.

Critics of the Welfare Reform Bill argue that the DLA benefit is doing exactly what it was originally meant to do, provide much needed financial help to people with disabilities. They also emphasis that it is only a small minority of cases that abuse the system through making false and exaggerated claims. They argue that one of the markers of a modern civilised society is the way it looks after disabled people, and that no one knows who will be next to need this benefit.

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