All 3 million disabled people, including pensioners and children, who receive allowances will be forced to undergo periodic medical tests to justify the payments under proposals outlined today. Ministers propose to end the automatic right to disability living allowance, worth up to £70 a week for care and up to £50 a week for travel needs. Claimants will have to wait for a year for the new "personal independence payment" and then submit to a series of tests focusing on "an individual's ability to carry out a range of key activities necessary to everyday life".
A similar system to judge the fitness to work of those claiming disability benefits will have to be overhauled amid mounting evidence that people with serious illnesses are being judged fit when they are not. Many claim that the costs will outweigh any benefits. Welfare support will also be conditional on disabled people acting on government instructions to "better manage or improve their situation if appropriate".
"We have fundamental concerns that the cost of the administration will mean there is no saving here. Claiming these benefits mean at the moment filling out a very long form. I don't think the answer is a whole new process of interviews, which many disabled people may find intimidating," said Guy Parckar of the Leonard Cheshire disability charity.
Charities said they were "deeply concerned" about the proposals – the government pencilled in £1bn of savings from DLA in the June budget.Sue Brown of the deafblind charity Sense said: "Some of our blind members might lose payments for using a taxi if, for example, they were given a white cane and told they could now move around."
The government said that the taxpayer this year will have to pay out "a lot more than expected" to disabled people, with DLA costs topping £12bn. It said 30% more people get the benefit than eight years ago. "There's no evidence of widespread fraud and no evidence to back up claims that the benefit acts as a barrier to work," said Richard Watts, of the Essex Coalition of Disabled People.