‘Benefit assessments must retain flexibility’ – Ritchie

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Sunday, January 27th, 2013
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has spoken out against British Government’s plans to replace Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) and the impact of this on those who are blind, partially –sighted or deaf. Speaking to Newry Times after taking part in a Westminster debate on the matter Ms Ritchie stated, “DLA is absolutely essential to assist those in need of support and I am deeply concerned that the new regime under Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) will leave many more people vulnerable. “While the government have made some important changes to the PIP descriptors to make it somewhat fairer to those who are blind or partially sighted, it is clear that the government still have many issues to clarify to ensure that the new system reflects the fact that partially sighted people often have very specific challenges and needs. “Indeed there are real fears that the new assessment criteria will not be flexible enough to address the challenges faced and resulting costs that have to be met by these people as they go about their daily life. Ritchie continued, “It is not surprising that real concerns have been voiced by many charities that the new criteria may not create a level playing field and effectively discriminate against the particular mobility and communication needs of people with certain disabilities. “Of particular concern here is the suggestion that an element of the assessment – that claimants be able to undertake each activity ‘safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner’ – will be removed from the guidelines. The government need to clarify this guidance and the assessment criteria as soon as possible. “I also fear that the new regime will not be fit for purpose to assess those with complex and fluctuating conditions, such as MS, where it will be extremely difficult to determine if someone meets the criteria on at least 50% of the days. These people should not be punished by a poorly designed and hastily rolled out assessment system. She added, “This UK government have taken an opportunistic approach to reforming the benefits system, an approach that is informed by reckless cuts and demonising those on benefits. “The introduction of PIPs represents the latest in a long line of poorly conceived measures and I urge the Department of Work and Pensions to review their implementation before it is too late.”
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