Clause 83

Part of Welfare Reform Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 7:45 pm on 10th May 2011.

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Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East 7:45 pm, 10th May 2011

People have to apply for benefit under both the DLA system and the proposed PIP, so it is not simply handed out, with people saying, “Here you are, in residential care—here’s your mobility allowance.” I understand that people will still have to make an individual application and they will doubtless have to demonstrate that they meet the criteria. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East referred to one of those criteria, which is in a separate section that deals with people who are unable to make use of a mobility payment.

Under the measure, people will have to meet the criteria to enable them to participate in society. We have heard much about what personal independence payment is meant to be about. It is to enable people to have the freedoms that the rest of us have. That might be to meet friends and participate in clubs on a social basis, to volunteer, or—especially for some of the younger, working-age people in that situation—to hold down a job or undertake training. Any concerns about people not needing benefit are addressed by the fact that they have to apply for it, which they will have to do under the personal independence payment, and as we have heard, there will be tests in that process.

The suggestion of ruling out a group from the benefit does not sit well with what we have heard in our discussions. Even this very afternoon, we have been told how important it is not to categorise people by group or allow them to have automatic entitlement to a benefit by group, because we must look at people as individuals. It seems strange, therefore, that the proposal suggests that someone should not receive the benefit because of their group category—because they are in a residential care facility. I argue that individuals in that situation should be considered individually. Saying that someone clearly does not meet the requirement or cannot make use of it is very different from saying that anyone in that situation should not be covered.

It was unclear what was meant by the review. The proposal has its own savings category, which is quite separate from any other financial savings that some people might feel will be made from this reform; it comes as a distinct line in the Budget. I was left unclear some weeks ago about whether there would be a review of the specific proposal or whether the proposal was being put into the mix to be considered as part of PIP.  In other words, would people who currently receive the benefit be transitioned to PIP, at which time we would look again at their need for and entitlement to that benefit, or at some point between now and 2013, will a decision be made about what is happening to those people as a group?

If there is double payment, and the evidence from many people is that there is not, the only way to establish that would be for the Department for Work and Pensions to contact local authorities up and down the country to ascertain what people pay for and do not pay for, and what their contracts with care homes cover. If there is an ongoing process to ascertain whether there really is an overlap and a duplication of payments, it is not clear that it is happening. It is not clear that requests for information are going to local authorities. Many allegations of double payment have been made, although little evidence has been adduced. I cannot see an easy way of gathering it without making contact with local authorities, though that will be an expensive process, putting a lot of people to a lot of effort.

Having been in politics as a local councillor, I know that proposals can be made that on the face of it sound like a good idea. However, when examined further, it is realised that the proposal is inherently bad. There are times when it is true that, “If you are in a hole, stop digging.” This is one of them.