A lot of strange things have been said by Government Members: they say that the Labour Government did nothing to reform benefits, yet say, “You invented the work capability assessment, so you’re responsible for it.” It cannot be both. As a new Member in 2010, I came here intent on criticising the implementation, not the principle, of WCA, regardless of who formed the Government. I made that clear in one of my first speeches. The fact that someone might think it a good thing, in principle, to carry out an assessment does not mean that the specific form of assessment we have been using has worked.
I want to talk, in particular, about how the change from disability living allowance to personal independent payments is likely to take place. I draw attention to a report published in Scotland and based on work by the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, which took the proposed test, as published, and ran workshops with about 135 people with learning disabilities to see how the test would work in practice. It found that 12% of DLA recipients would not be awarded PIP. Given that there are 24,500 people with learning disabilities in Scotland, nearly 3,000 could be at risk of losing their entitlement.
The report refers to one case study involving a woman with Down’s syndrome living in the Gorgie area of Edinburgh. At the moment, she receives the low level of the care and mobility components of DLA, which makes a huge difference to her life. The care component means that she can cook meals with fresh food, which is particularly important to people with Down’s syndrome, and the mobility component allows her to get reliably to and from her part-time job in a local supermarket. She can afford the bus fares and can get a taxi if she makes a mistake or gets lost. The awards also help her to cover additional costs. For example, a learning disability means that sometimes she leaves the heating on by mistake and so has higher heating bills. Her DLA means that she can pay these bills without too much worry and difficulty. Under the proposed test, however, she scored only four points, which would mean her losing £41 a week, or £2,000 a year.
The report found that 30% of those in receipt of the mobility component and 40% of those in receipt of the care component would receive less under PIP. For example,
Frankie, who lives in a small town in a small group home run by a voluntary organisation, receives nine hours of support a week from paid staff as part of his living accommodation. He has a learning disability, cannot read, has a long-term health condition that requires periods in hospital and has mobility problems. At the moment, he receives the medium rate care component and higher rate mobility component of DLA. Under the PIP assessment, he scored some points in some areas, such as living needs—he needs help using appliances and understanding written communications—but that amounted to only seven points. That means he would not get those benefits and would be £85 a week worse off—£4,400 a year.