In Depth

Disability benefit reform: what is PIP and why is it controversial?

Critics say Iain Duncan Smith's reforms will turn back the clock for disabled people - but IDS denies he's being nasty

CONTROVERSIAL changes to disability benefits will be introduced in the north of England from today as part of government efforts to trim the billion-pound welfare bill. Critics argue the move to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payments (PIP) is "flawed". The government estimates £2.2 billion per year will be saved through the reform by 2015-16. Four questions answered:

How is PIP different? Currently around 3.3 million Britons receive DLA, at a cost of £13.2 billion per year to the state. Up to 71 per cent of those claimants are entitled to the benefit for life, a situation described as "ridiculous" by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith in the Daily Mail. Under PIP, claimants will receive face-to-face assessments and regular "health checks" to see if they should continue receiving financial help.

What is the government aiming to achieve? Iain Duncan Smith believes there is a case for re-assessment as some conditions improve over time. He told the Daily Mail the overhaul was about getting the benefits bill "back under control". He denies the reforms are "nasty and vicious".

What do the critics say? Paralympian Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson warns that the changes could "turn the clock back" for disabled people. She tells The Times that those who have benefits removed may end up in care. "What we don't want is for Britain to be turned back to the Sixties and Seventies, when disabled people were locked up because that was cheaper and easier". Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, estimates that 600,000 people will lose out under the "flawed" changes.

How will PIP be rolled out? From today, new claimants in North West England, Merseyside, Cumbria, Cheshire and North East England will be assessed for PIP. By June all new claimants across the country will be assessed for the new benefit. It will take two years before the majority of DLA claimants begin moving across to PIP. The reforms will only affect those of working age: there is no plan to move the over-65s and under-16s from DLA, says the Department of Work and Pension.

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