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Disability handouts to be cut or stopped for 330,000 claimants as Government aims to end 'welfare for life'New figures show 71 per cent of claimants do not go through proper checksWithout reform, one in every 17 adults would be claiming DLA by 2018 says Disability minister
00:26 GMT, 13 December 2012
Benefits clampdown: Disability minister Esther McVey defends change
The Government is to reduce or stop disability allowance for hundreds of thousands of claimants in a bid to end unchecked ‘welfare for life’.
The clampdown comes as new figures suggest that seven in ten of those claiming the benefit go through the system without proper checks.
Ministers intend to reassess an initial 560,000 claimants, and expect that 330,000 – nearly 60 per cent – will get no award or a reduced sum after the checks.
There are currently 3.2million adults claiming disability living allowance (DLA), costing Britain 13.2billion a year – equivalent to the entire budget for the Department for Transport.
The number of claimants has more than trebled since the benefit was created in 1992.
Disability minister Esther McVey said without reform, one in every 17 adults would be claiming DLA by 2018.
The Tory minister said the vast majority of claimants – 71 per cent – get the benefit ‘for life’, often having filled in an initial claim form about their capability themselves.
She added that about a third of people with a disability had a change in a condition in a year – some for the worse, but many for the better.
This suggests that in many cases claimants may no longer need the full benefit or any allowance at all.
The first 560,000 claimants will be reassessed by October 2015.
The group consists of those who report a change in circumstance or who have been given a time-limited award that comes to an end.
In a concession to critics, the Government will slow down the timetable for checks on the remaining claimants, which will begin in 2015. It is not clear that the same proportion will see benefits reduced in the second stage as in the first.
An independent review of the first stage of reform will be conducted in 2014.
The Government has already identified 630million in overpayments and 190million in underpayments, highlighting the turmoil in the welfare system.
Miss McVey said: ‘It has been considered a
static benefit, not a dynamic one. But there will be people getting
better thanks to medical advances or who overcome an impairment. So we
need new and more regular assessments.
Condemning: David Cameron called Labour the party of 'unlimited welfare' as he faced criticism over the benefits clampdown at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday
‘DLA is an outdated benefit introduced over 20 years ago.
‘At the moment the vast majority of people get the benefit for life without systematic checks to see if their condition has changed.’ The Coalition is replacing DLA with a new benefit, called the personal independence payment.
It will be designed to target more generous support towards ‘those who need it most’.
The new system will involve a medical expert assessing a claim in a face-to-face appointment, and regular later checks.
Last night, charities voiced a chorus of protest at plans to slash the disability benefit bill.
A poll by campaign group Disability Alliance found that 9 per cent of survey respondents said losing the disability living allowance ‘may make life not worth living’.
The group has also protested that the
Government had identified cuts in spending before consulting on which
elements of benefits needed to be reformed.
clampdown on disability benefit emerged as the Conservatives and Labour
traded increasingly bitter blows over efforts to cut the vast welfare
Challenge: Labour Leader Ed Miliband's claim that the new benefits system will lower-income families in work was disputed by David Cameron
At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, David Cameron condemned Labour as the party of ‘unlimited welfare’.
Ed Miliband made clear Labour will oppose Government plans to cap most out-of-work benefits and tax credits to a below-inflation 1 per cent increase for the next three years.
Labour claims that the squeeze will hit lower income families who are in work but in receipt of tax credits as well as the unemployed, but the Prime Minister insisted that such concern is misplaced.
Working families would be more than compensated by other measures, most notably, a record increase in the basic rate income tax threshold to 9,440, Mr Cameron said.
Officials say the average working family would be 125 a year better off next year once the income tax break, the tax credit squeeze and the cancellation of a 3p rise in fuel duty are taken into account.
Savings from the welfare cap are so significant that it would take a 1p rise income tax to plug the gap.
Mr Miliband accused the Government of seeking to ‘divide and rule’, by portraying benefit claimants as ‘scroungers’.