The Independent reports that Liberal Democrat MPs are trying to change the new assessment process for the Personal Independence Payments which will replace Disability Living Allowance. They believe that they may lead to blind people being denied the help that they need. This is a measure introduced by the Welfare Reform Act. The MPs are concerned that the new assessment process focuses on mobility and does not sufficiently take into account the ways in which being blind or partially sighted can affect everyday life.
People who have sight loss need the extra help to, for example, help with cleaning, ironing or transport costs. They often need to pay for transport. If the place where they live has no buses after 6pm, then they may well have to rely on taxis in order to be able to enjoy a reasonable quality of life or to get to and from work at unsocial hours. The money they currently receive under DLA is a lifeline.
The Independent article is written in the terms of rebellion and U-turns. However, if you look at the details, it seems to me like the sort of businesslike advocacy we would expect from our MPs. They can see that there is a problem and they are contacting the minister responsible and asking him to look again at this before the system is implemented next April. There is time to change it.
Especially interesting is that it’s not just the “Awkward Squad” who are involved. The concerned MPs range from Jo Swinson, Nick Clegg’s PPS, to Jenny Willott in the Whip’s Office to the usual suspects like Bob Russell and Mike Hancock.
The Parliamentary Party appears to be united in its desire to have this issue sorted. For blind and partially sighted people across the whole country, it’s very important that they succeed.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings