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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Liberal Democrats to fight Tory plans to restrict disability benefits

A Tory bill that will severely restrict disability benefits and which could potentially deprive 160,000 people of state helpis being strongly opposed by the Liberal Democrats in the Lords.

As the Independent reports, the introduction of the bill follows a written statement to the House of Commons by Conservative disability minister Penny Mordaunt that the Government will introduce emergency legislation to tighten the criteria of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to disabled people after they were told to cover a broader spectrum of claimants, including those with mental health problems:

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) was advised to expand the reach of the PIP scheme by two separate tribunals to give claimants more points for “psychological stress”.

The PIP scheme assesses claims on a points based for two different categories – “daily living” and “mobility” – and claimants must score at least eight points to receive a basic payment and 12 points to receive an enhanced rate.

It is designed to cover the extra costs that come with being disabled, such as specially adapted aids, cars and appliances, and measure how a disability affects a person’s life rather than the disability itself, but critics say the criteria is too strict.

But the first tribunal ruled that claimants should receive more points for “mobility” if they suffer from “overwhelming psychological distress” when travelling alone.

The second tribunal recommended that people be given more points for “daily living” if they have to take medication and monitor a health condition.

Ms Mordaunt said urgent reforms were needed to “restore the original aim of the benefit”, citing concerns that otherwise the Government would end up paying £3.7bn extra in PIP payments by 2022.

She also insisted no claimant would see a reduction in the amount of PIP previously awarded.

That assurance does not convince the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Work and Pensions, Baroness Cathy Bakewell, who has said that the plans are “outrageous” and who accused the Conservatives of treating disabled people with “total contempt”.

She has quite rightly said that the Government should have accepted the decision of the Tribunals and that Ministers are using these decisions as an excuse to further restrict access to benefits for disabled people.

Baroness Bakewell has pledged that the Liberal Democrats will fight these proposals which will impact drastically on the lives of vulnerable people.

It was proposals like these that the Liberal Democrats consistently blocked when in coalition between 2010 and 2015.
Oh dear, it seems that, despite Mrs May's leadership, the atavistic urge amongst Tories for nastiness and spite remains. Who could have thought it?
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