Hundreds of thousands of disabled people will see their benefits axed or cut in the next three years.
Disability organisations in Britain fear a new benefit being introduced next year will leave some people worse off, and will drive more families into poverty. The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for those of working age is being replaced with the Personal Independence Payment (Pip) in April 2013.
The current DLA system was introduced 20 years ago to recognise the extra costs disabled people face in taking an active part in society. The DLA is not means tested, and includes a mobility and care component that can be worth between £20 and £130 a week.
Under the change, claimants will face a medical interview and regular benefit reviews. Ministers say the new Pip system will help deliver a 20% saving on what the state would have spent on DLA by 2016.
The government's own figures state that 500,000 people will lose entitlement altogether. Others will only qualify for a lower rate.
Esther McVeigh, UK minister for disabled people, said:
"It's designed to achieve a fairer system. "We will continue spending £13bn a year. But it's to ensure that the people who need the money the most are getting it."
She added that the current system meant there were no regular reviews of who was receiving the DLA benefit, and whether they should be.
"Some people are on benefits for life, they've never seen anybody, they've never had a medical assessment," she said.
But the chancellor George Osborne signalled in his first budget in 2010 that reforms to the DLA were a priority. Primarily, he said it was because the number of DLA claims had risen by almost 40% in the last decade - from just under 2.4m people to 3.3m.
It means the DLA bill stands at around £13bn a year, making it one of the UK government's largest items of spending.
Osborne said changes to the DLA would mean the government could "continue to afford paying this important benefit to those with the greatest needs, while significantly improving incentives to work for others".
The move to Pip will be completed by 2016, when the government expects 1.7m people to be claiming the new benefit.
The Government claim by October 2015 they will have reassessed 560,000 claimants. Of those, 160,000 will get a reduced award and 170,000 will get no award.
PiPS will be phased in, starting with the North West and parts of the North East of England from April 2013. Families will be driven even further below the poverty line, and people will find themselves a lot worse off than they are and a lot less able to contribute to the economy.
Labour backed reform but shadow minister Anne McGuire insisted: "The assessment needs to be the right one."
Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity said: "This isn't about the needs of disabled people or about fairness, it's about saving money. I fear that people with genuine needs who should be looked after are going to lose out under these reforms."
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