A nationwide charity has called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to halt the roll-out of Personal Independence Payment’s (PIP).
Sense, a national charity which supports deafblind children and adults, says evidence exists to suggest the new disability benefit is inaccessible to deafblind and multisensory impaired claimants.
The charity fears that this inaccessibility will lead to vulnerable adults losing the essential benefits they desperately need.
The majority of deafblind people have indefinite Disability Living Allowance (DLA) awards, meaning they would continue to receive the benefit for the rest of their lives.
However, PIP is replacing DLA for all disabled adults aged 16 to 64 and is being rolled out to all areas of the Country from today (1 October). Disabled people currently receiving DLA will be reassessed for PIP, which has much tougher eligibility requirements.
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 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.”