Blind and partially sighted people are being urged to make their voices heard to ensure they are treated fairly. According to the government’s own figures, around half a million people will lose entitlement altogether as Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP), with many others qualifying for a lower rate than they currently receive.
Paul Farrell, from Mansfield, suffered depression and a loss of independence when his sight began to deteriorate. Changes to the mobility allowance would result in some blind and partially sighted people losing £100 a month. Mr Farrell said “It is so unfair. They are targeting disabled people and pensioners, who are the most vulnerable in society. It is just wrong. I’m less bothered for myself, but I know many people who are less able and will be severely affected.” Having gone through a rehabilitation programme with Sight Support Derbyshire, Mr Farrell’s confidence has improved significantly, but he said “If I lose this allowance it means I won’t be able to go out as much, leaving me isolated and knocking my self-esteem.”
Both DLA and the new PIP are intended to provide financial support to deal with the additional living costs incurred by people with disabilities. PIP will be split into two parts, a mobility component and a daily living component, both of which will be paid at one of two rates: standard or enhanced. As it stands the criteria for both components would result in many blind and visually impaired people losing out on support they were entitled to with DLA. For the mobility component, someone who has had a visual impairment for a long time and is judged to have ‘adapted’ will not receive the same financial help as someone who is newly diagnosed. This does not reflect the reality that the difficulties, barriers, and costs incurred continue regardless of the length of time a person has lived with sight loss. If a person with a visual impairment loses their travel allowance, it will have a huge impact on their mobility, which in turn affects their ability to participate in society. Not only would they be less able to access work, but they would be at a greater risk of suffering from isolation and a loss of independence which often lead to mental health problems.
Implementation of PIP will begin with new applicants from April 2013, with the transfer of existing DLA recipients to PIP beginning in Autumn 2013. The exact details for assessing who will receive PIP and which of the rates they will be eligible for have been decided following recent consultations. The consultation for the detailed design of the PIP however is open until 30th June and therefore all blind and partially sighted people can still play a vital role in ensuring that the PIP properly recognise the impact of sight loss and do not lead to people losing the support they need to live independently.
Sight Support Derbyshire is calling for people with a visual impairment to ensure the PIP assessment criteria is fair and does not affect the financial support they receive. Fundraising and Communications Manager Robin Toal said, “We are encouraging blind and partially sighted people and organisations representing them to approach their MP to raise awareness of the impact of the changes, as we are asking MPs to raise the matter with the Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP. The best way to do this is to meet with your MP at one of their surgeries or alternatively write to them.
Unless the government reconsiders, thousands of visually impaired people across Derbyshire will be left poorer than ever.”
Click here to listen to Paul Farrell speaking to Peak FM.