Suppliers of wheelchair accessible vehicles through the Motability Scheme and other disability groups and organisations across the UK continue to monitor the progress of the government's Welfare Reform Bill through the House of Lords.
The Bill, which promises the greatest shake-up of the welfare system in decades - including major changes to disability living allowance - passed the second reading stage and is now set for line-by-line scrutiny by peers during the committee stage, starting on October 4, 2011.
Welfare Reform minister Lord Freud said the principles of fairness, affordability and ending benefit dependency had to be applied to reform of support for disabled people.
Speaking during the Bill's second reading, this week, Lord Freud told peers disability living allowance (DLA) was confusing and inconsistent.
He said, “Too many people think of DLA as an out-of-work benefit. In fact, DLA's purpose is to provide financial support to contribute towards the extra costs incurred by disabled people as a result of their disability, irrespective of whether they are in or out of work. DLA awards have become inconsistent and subjective, and spending on this benefit has started to spiral out of control.”
Lord Freud said more than two-thirds of claimants received one or both of the two DLA components indefinitely. And there were no systematic checks to see if their condition had changed.
He added, “This is no longer acceptable. We must support people properly and that means more accurate and more regular assessments to see if their condition has changed and ensure they are receiving the right level of benefit.
“This means being prepared to pay more for those whose needs have increased as well as reducing the benefits of those who no longer need them. To that end, this Bill allows for the abolition of DLA and its replacement with the personal independence payment, which like DLA will be available to disabled people both in and out of work and will be non-taxable.
“The key changes will be an end to automatic entitlements based on having a certain health condition or impairment, a more objective assessment, and the introduction of more regular check-ups. These reforms are designed to deliver a more responsive and sustainable benefit and to ensure support is focused on those who face the greatest challenges to take part in everyday life. They are not about taking support away from those who truly need it.”
According to the government, the personal independence payment (PIP), replacing DLA, aims to make the benefit fairer, more straightforward to administer, and easier and clearer to understand. There will be two components to PIP, a daily living component and a mobility component. Each component will have a standard rate and an enhanced rate.
It will, says the government, remain a non-means-tested and non-taxable cash benefit which recipients can spend in a way that best suits them.
The committee stage can last anything from one or two days to more than a week. The Bill then goes on to the report stage, followed by a third reading, and finally an amendments stage considered by both Houses of Parliament. When a Bill completes all its parliamentary stages, it receives royal assent - a formality - before becoming law.
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