Thousands will lose out under reforms warning

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AROUND 3,000 disabled people in Wigan are expected to lose their benefits under new government changes.

As Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Wigan and Leigh People First - a self-advocacy charity for people with learning disabilities - warns that 20 per cent of claimants will see their benefits axed.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that more than 70 per cent of claimants get DLA for life and ministers believe the circumstances of some individuals can improve over time, with a case for more regular assessments.

The new system - introduced in the north first - involves regular face-to face assessments, with a requirement that if a person can walk 30m unaided, they would lose their benefit.

From June, new claims will begin in the rest of the country and in October, some of those currently receiving DLA will start moving to the new system if there is a change in their circumstances or an existing award ends.

It will be two years before most of the existing claimants begin moving over to PIP.

In Wigan, there are currently 23,250 people registered on DLA, but under the new rules, 3,000 people with disabilities will lose their benefits.

And Wigan and Leigh People First expects the impact on the borough’s disabled residents to be huge,

Julie Davies, director, said: “Anybody who becomes disabled or has a change in circumstances will be affected first as they will have a new assessment and be put on the PIP.

“But as this is being phased in, eventually all claimants will be affected.

“It is a challenge that people with learning difficulties and disabilities will face and there is a sense of disbelief that they are being doubted. Only 0.5 per cent of claims are fraudulent, which is spectacularly low.

“There is a fear that if they lose their entitlement, they could also lose vital equipment, such as a mobility car.

“Under PIP, for the highest rate of disability allowance, the person should only be able to walk 20m unaided, so if they can manage 30m they lose their entitlement. That is not fair at all.

“To have regular assessments when you have a life-long disability is distressing and not cost effective.”