The national deafblind charity, Sense, has called for a suspension of the nationwide Personal Independence Payments (PIP) rollout, with evidence that the scheme, which replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA), remains inaccessible to many deafblind people and those with multisensory disabilities.
The fear is that the inaccessibility will lead to vulnerable people losing essential benefits.
Sue Brown, Head of Public Policy at Sense said:
“The reassessment of existing DLA claimants has been rolled out to all areas of the country whilst it remains inaccessible to deafblind people. We believe this could lead to individuals losing their benefits through no fault of their own.
“Currently, starting a claim involves using a telephone or filling in a paper questionnaire, both of which are inaccessible for deafblind claimants, or other individuals who are unable to use these claim formats.
“We have reports from professionals who support deafblind people, including interpreters and communicator guides, that DWP staff will not speak to them unless a deafblind person gives consent over the phone first. Many people we support are not able to use the telephone at all.
“The DWP has said that it is developing an online claim process for PIP, however the site is not yet live so deafblind people on DLA will have significant difficulties making a claim. We believe the reassessment of existing DLA claimants on long term awards should not have started until the online claim portal is live.
“We urge the government to ensure the application process for PIP is accessible to deafblind people, or suspend the rollout until it is. They have to prioritise the development of an online portal, make the process fully accessible by using a variety of communication methods, and enable professionals to make a claim on behalf of a deafblind person.”
PIP replaced DLA for people aged 16 to 64 on 8th April 2013. The reassessment of existing DLA claimants with long term awards started on a small scale from July 2015, and from today it is rolled out to all areas of the country. The vast majority of deafblind people have indefinite awards of DLA.
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