Disability Living Alliance was introduced in the 1990s and there is a need to ensure that the benefit reflects the needs of disabled people in a way that is appropriate for disabled people in the 21st century.
DLA is to be phased out and replaced by the Personal Indpendence Payment and it is planned that the new benefit will be introduced from April 2013 for Working Age customers (Age 16-64).
The aim is to improve support for disabled people and deliver it through an assessment process that is fairer, more consistent and clearer, as well as more straightforward.
The new criteria for the assessment will be designed in collaboration with a group of independent specialists in disability, social care and health and they are being tested on 1,000 DLA claimants. This is a UK process and Northern Ireland cases are being used in the development and testing of the new assessment to ensure it is accurate and consistent in assessing individuals and has regard to the specific needs of our local customer base in Northern Ireland.
This is one element in welfare reform and the legislation is currently going through Westminster. Recently I met the government minister who is overseeing this process, Lord Freud, but we will not know the final outcome until the legislation has made its way through parliament.
Nevertheless draft regulations on the daily living and mobility activities test have now been published by the Department for Work and Pensions at Westminster. You can view these draft regulations for PIP on the DWP website at http://tinyurl.com/67a88qp.
You may also find it useful to refer to a summary prepared by the Disability Alliance at www.disabilityalliance.org/f60.htm
A second draft of the regulations should be published in mid-October in time for the Second Reading of the Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Lords. These regulations should include the points system for the first time. Final regulations should be published next year.
The principle of parity as regards welfare reform means that the same system will apply in Northern Ireland.