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Works and Pension Secretary see the abuse and fraud of benefit system being curbed by reforms to an extent where half a million and more would lose disability benefits

Date: (14 May 2012)    |    

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Works and Pension Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has said that with the implementation of the reforms the abuse and fraud involved in the benefit system will be curtailed to an extent that would see more than half a million people losing disability benefits.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the Work and Pensions Secretary said that he was firm in the introduction of radical reforms to disability benefits which would see more than two million claimants reassessed in the next four years.

He said that the number of claimants had risen by 30 percent in recent years which was far ahead of any comparing estimates one might make about illness, sickness, disability. Losing a limb should not automatically entitle people to a pay-out, he suggests.

The cost of disability living allowance, which is intended to help people meet the extra costs of mobility and care associated with their conditions, now outstrips unemployment benefit and will soon be £13 billion annually.

Under the reform plans, the existing benefit is to be replaced with a simpler “more focused” allowance for only those who would be medically assessed to be in genuine need of support.

An official impact assessment of the plans, which was released this month, had shown that the scheme would cut benefit payments by £2.24 billion annually leading to about 500,000 fewer claimants.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said that it was not like incapacity benefit, it was not the question of sickness but measure of the capability meaning whether care and support was needed or not to get around. It was these things which accounted for and not because somebody had lost a limb.

The reform of disability benefits was most likely a big challenge in the Government’s welfare reform programme and would lead to high-profile protests from disability campaigners.

Tony Blair was forced to abandon a plan to reduce disability benefits after people in wheelchairs chained themselves to the gates of Downing Street.

Mr Duncan Smith said that the current system had been exploited and abused because of political fear over reforming a benefit for the disabled.

His department will now replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (Pip) which will have tighter criteria and a simpler approval system.

He said that those who were on disability benefits were not undergoing medical checkups and more than 70 percent were given life time awards which once given was never subjected to review allowing them to fester.

Ministers were believed to be consulting on the new eligibility criteria which would be announced in the autumn but they now appear keen to begin discussing publicly the need for reform.

Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to lose the benefits which were worth up to £120 a week. Others would have them cut while some of the most severely disabled Britons are expected to be awarded higher benefits. The mentally ill may also benefit from the changes.