The Budget hints at reform of disability benefits

There’s very little in the Budget directly on benefits – the main things are on page 103.  The main point of interest is probably about benefits for disability, and two of the three points are pre-announced.  The first is a modification of the PIP assessment to reduce credit for using aids and appliances.  As we’ve seen relatively few PIP assessments so far, it’s difficult to know how much effect this will have, but I suspect the government’s prediction that it will exclude huge numbers of people will have to be set against other changes in rules relating to fluctuating illnesses and mental health.  Tightening rules rarely works as governments expect.

The change on supported housing has bought a year for specialist agencies before the cuts come, but it’s only a moratorium.

The third point is the vaguest, but it could be the most important.  The government wants to consider “the case for long-term reform of disability benefits and services that is fair for the taxpayer and for those with disabilities or health conditions”.  I’ve no idea what that means, but  the implication of that phrase seems to be that they think the present system is unfair to taxpayers and costs too much.  Most people who become disabled have been taxpayers, and what they pay is supposed to ensure social protection for them when things go wrong.  Depending on how you count, there are something like eight to ten million people with disabilities in Britain.  Most of us will know someone in our own family who has been disabled or ill for a long time, and many of us could be disabled ourselves in time to come.  We should be telling people: it could happen to you.

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