My Thoughts

General Election 2017: disability benefits

Muscular Dystrophy UK Trailblazer Emma Vogelmann has written a series of blogs on where the political parties stand on the key issues affecting people with muscle-wasting conditions at the 2017 General Election. Here’s her latest piece on disability benefits: 
One of the biggest issues that politicians will be addressing during the General Election campaign is disability benefits. This will include stating where they stand on Personal Independence Payments and Employment and Support Allowance and how they are assessed and the level of Carer’s Allowance. While welfare support impacts many people it is of particular importance to people with disabilities and their families as this is an income that is sometimes heavily relied on given the higher costs of living faced by disable people.

Muscular Dystrophy UK campaigns very hard to ensure disability benefits are assessed fairly and people receive a level of support that meets their needs.

One such campaign was to reverse the policy that people’s Motability cars were being taken away before an appeal hearing on their Personal Independence Payment award had been made.

Joining forces with Dave Gale, who has Becker muscular dystrophy, MDUK was successful in reversing the policy, meaning that people can now keep their cars before their appeal hearing. MDUK continues to campaign towards changing the assessment criteria for the mobility component of Personal Independence Payments.

The issues regarding disability benefits are two-fold; firstly issues with the assessment process including the assessment criteria and how that criteria is being applied to real individual. Secondly, issues with the level of the benefit.

This is how Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives approach the issue in their manifestos.

Conservatives –

  • Continue to run the welfare system in accordance with the belief that work is the best route out of poverty
  • No plans for further ‘radical’ welfare reform in this parliament
  • Continue the roll-out of Universal Credit

Labour –

  • Increase Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by £30 a week
  • Increase Carer’s Allowance by £11 to the level of Jobseekers Allowance.
  • Replace the current Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment to a more “personalised” assessment.
  • End reassessments for people with severe long-term conditions
  • Support to people with disabilities through a new Social Security Bill published in first year in office

Liberal Democrats –

  • Raise the amount people can earn before losing Carer’s Allowance from £110 to £150 a week, and reduce the number of hours’ care per week required to qualify
  • Reverse cuts to Employment Support Allowance to those in the work-related activity group
  • Scrap the discredited Work Capability Assessment and replace it with a new system, run by local authorities according to national rules, including a ‘real world’ test that is based on the local labour market

Scottish National Party –

  • Call for an end to Work Capability Assessments and replace it with a more “fair” and “respectful” system
  • Urge UK Government to review Personal Independence Payments
  • Increase Carer’s Allowance to the level of Jobseekers Allowance
  • Not means-test disability benefits

Whoever is elected, MDUK will be working hard to ensure that whoever is elected provides disabled people with the support they need. Part of this work will be continuing to campaign for a change the 50/20 rule for the mobility component of Personal Independence Payments. This is a new rule which changes the qualifying distance a person can move unaided from 50 metres to 20 metres. The new rule prevents individuals with mobility difficulties being awarded the higher rate mobility allowance if their difficulties are not deemed severe enough.

A considerable amount of the above policies address that the assessment process for disability benefits do not take the individual’s particular condition and circumstances into account. This is a welcome proposal as no two people, even if they live with the same condition, are the same therefore having hard and fast assessment criteria can be a disservice. Having a more personalised assessment will hopefully lead to decisions being right the first time and therefore cut down the number of lengthy appeals. 

This was originally published on Muscular Dystrophy UK’s website as part of a series of blogs on the General Election 2017 Manifestos. http://www.musculardystrophyuk.org/your-stories/general-election-2017-disability-benefits/

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