Headway reiterates opposition to Welfare Reform Bill15 September 2011
Headway - the brain injury association has reiterated its opposition to the Welfare Reform Bill in its current form. The charity is concerned that the Bill will make it harder for disabled people to access the appropriate levels of help from the state they need in order to live lives that are as full and independent as possible.
The charity believes the Bill disguises cuts to benefits across the board. Of particular concern is the proposal to limit claims of contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to one year, placing unacceptable pressure on disabled people to find a job.
The vast majority of people with long-term conditions such as brain injury want to find work in order to boost their self-esteem and integration back into society, while allowing them to regain a level of independence. However, for some this is simply not possible and placing arbitrary limits on claims will push many families and individuals into poverty and add to the difficulties and anxieties they face.
Many Headway service users have already approached the charity for support and advice following ESA assessments in which they have been inaccurately judged as being fit for work. It is Headway's considered opinion that the current ESA assessment process is flawed and as such, people who are unable to work and therefore rely on this benefit are being denied appropriate financial support.
Headway also has concerns regarding replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payment (PIP), with the Government targeting a 20% reduction in expenditure with the switch to PIPs. It is vital that lessons are learned from the ESA assessment process and that the PIP assessment process enables complex conditions to be identified and adequately catered for.
Objectivity and independence in assessing people for disability payments is understandable and laudable. However, such assessments can only be deemed appropriate if they are sound and accurate; to this end, Headway believes the qualified opinions of doctors and specialists should continue to be acceptable in many cases. By not utilising expert opinions, many people with hidden disabilities are at risk of having their valid claims rejected.
Headway has outlined its concerns to the Government through participation in various consultations since the inception of the Bill. In addition, the charity's Chief Executive Peter McCabe has written to Maria Miller MP, Minister for Disabled People at the Department for Work and Pensions, to urge the Government to give further consideration to the impact the Bill will have on some of the most vulnerable members of society.
The charity is encouraging its service users and supporters to contact their MPs to register their concerns and highlight the personal impact the Bill will have on their lives.
"The message is clear," said Peter McCabe. "The Bill poses significant risk to the quality of life of disabled people who are already at a disadvantage in society. Such cuts can have no moral justification."