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07 Jul 2017
Forth Valley Stronger Together

The changes to the Housing Benefit system, popularly called the Bedroom Tax affects many people with learning disabilities.  We have produced a comprehensive guide to the Bedroom Tax and what it means for you.  You can download your copy of it here.  

Victory For Independent Living Rights In English Appeal Court

Statement by Anne Pridmore, Gabriel Pepper and Stuart Bracking

As three of the Independent Living Fund users who have challenged the legality of the government’s decision to close the Fund, we welcome the Appeal Court’s unanimous ruling that this decision should be quashed.

Given the Government has decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court, the new Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning will now have to reconsider the Government's approach to the future of the Independent Living Fund and its users.

Rather than being the ‘privileged group’ referred to in the High Court judgement, the Appeal Court has acknowledged the potentially very grave impact the closure of the Fund would have on its users, putting seriously in peril the ability of a large number of people to live independent lives in their own homes, and pursue activities such as employment and education.

They concluded that when Disabled People’s Minister Esther McVey made her decision in 2012 to finally close the Fund by April 2015, she did not properly consider the need to advance our equality of opportunity, minimise the disadvantage we face, encourage independent living, and promote our participation in public life and other social activities.

The DWP has announced that the introduction of PIP for existing claimants has been delayed.  They  had been planning to introduce the new personal independence payment (PIP) this month, transferring claimants from the disability living allowance (DLA) when their circumstances change.    However, it will now be introduced at the discretion of the department "in a more gradual, controlled and manageable way" starting in Wales, East Anglia and the Midlands.

Mike Penning, one of the department's new ministers, revealed the changes in a written statement to parliament after officials found "that the end-to-end claiming process is taking longer than expected".

The department said: "The issue giving rise to the need for amending regulations only came to light at the beginning of October as a result of our ongoing analysis of the introduction of PIP for new claims and the processes supporting it.

"As a consequence, the department wants to deliver a more controlled and measured start to natural reassessment, due to commence from 28 October. The department has worked as quickly as possible to identify and develop a range of options to deliver this, together with the necessary clerical and technical processes to support the aim.

"These regulations bring forward the preferred option which allows the department to introduce natural reassessment in a more gradual, controlled and manageable way."

LDAS has already heard that the PIP assessments for young people claiming for the first time in Edinburgh has been taking far longer than expected.  Each interview has been taking between one and a half and two hours.   This has really slowed down the number of claimants that can be assessed.

The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to set up a new Scottish Enablement Fund to be run by an independent trust as part of their future plans for the transferred resources from the Independent Living Fund. 

The Scottish Government is planning to maintain payments to all existing users of the ILF for as long as it continues to get funding from Westminster.   But it wants to know what to do with any existing monies that become available and how they could be best used to support disabled people. 

In its consultation response LDAS has suggested that this money could be used to help disabled people achieve valued outcomes such as maintaining friendships and getting jobs  on a sustainable basis where local authorities do no prioritise such aims. 

The new fund would be a “light touch” trust that would step in after individuals had been assessed by social workers and received their individual budgets through Self Directed Support.  This would let the fund’s resources be used to meet outcomes that local authorities had decided not to meet. 

An independent trust to manage this money would be able to replicate the low administrative costs that have been a feature of the Independent Living Fund.  It would also be able to make resources available on both a short term, long term and one off basis. 

Ian Hood, Coordinator of the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland said, “We have heard from many people about how they value the ILF and  are worried that local authorities might take control on fund.  Many fear losing the flexibility of the fund.  We think this proposal provides a real opportunity for the Scottish Government to create new opportunities for disabled people.”

 

The consultation closes on Friday November 1st 2013.  Read our full consultation response here

The Aberdeen Stronger Together group has produced a new easy read pamphlet on How to Claim Personal Independence Payment.  This pamphlet uses photographs of members of the group taken by other members of the group to illustrate key parts of the PIP application process, highlighting important steps and issues to think about in advance.  

Personal Independence Payment is one of the most important changes that will be happening for people with disabilities as part of the Government's Welfare Reform programme.  On the government's own estimate 40% of current claimants of Disability Living Allowance will get less or no award under PIP.  While many others may get an increased award, this is no consolation to those that lose out.  

We are worried that people with learning disabilities may be one of the groups that is most at risk of losing out due to many people wanting to fit in and play down their disability.  This pamphlet is full of helpful guidance and tips for people to consider from replying to the application letter, completing the application form and going to the assessment.  While this doesn't have all the answer and is not a substitute for proper help, it can point you in the right direction.

You can download a copy of this pamphlet here.    Member organisations will receive copies in the post shortly and hard copies may be provided to non members on request, subject to availability.