Welfare changes for disabled 'will hit hard'

Nigel Mortlock Nigel Mortlock said he is worried about the changes

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Changes to benefits for people with disabilities could "be a real hardship", one Lancashire claimant fears.

The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being phased out from April for those of working age and replaced by a new benefit called Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

PIP will be introduced for new claims in Merseyside, North West England, Cumbria, Cheshire and North East England from next month, with the rest of the country following in June.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said the changes make an out-dated benefit clearer.

It is based on individual assessments, followed by regular check-ups, focusing on an individual's ability to carry out a range of everyday activities.

'Feel like a sponger'

A Department of Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: "Under the current system there are hundreds of millions of pounds of overpayments and underpayments and 70% of people get the benefit for life without systematic checks to see if their condition has changed.

"We are replacing DLA with Personal Independence Payment and introducing a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews to make sure people are getting the right levels of support."

The government hopes to save £2bn as a result of the switch from DLA to PIP.

Nigel Mortlock, from Heysham in north Lancashire, has spinal problems and struggles with mobility.

He said he is worried the changes would mean a reduction in his payments.

"I have a mortgage, bills are getting higher, everything's getting really tight," he said.

"A reduction really would hit hard."

Mr Mortlock worked since leaving school and up to the age of 41, when he had an accident at work that damaged his spine.

"I carried on working for six months, but my spine is very bad and I'm bad on my legs, so I can't work," he said.

"You feel as though the government is putting you down for not working,

"The way the government puts it across, you're made to feel like a sponger, a scrounger. All you hear about is people on benefits should be out working.

"For legitimate claimants, which the majority of people are, what else do we do?"

More money

John Cornwall from Accrington is 56 and has never had a job. After leaving university he was diagnosed with anxiety and eventually, schizophrenia.

He said the new system of medical assessments was unfair.

"You can't see a mental illness, and a mental illness is a progressive thing, different every day," he said.

"How on earth can anybody make an assessment in say 30 minutes on one particular day?"

Assessments for existing claimants of DLA will begin later in the year.

The government expects around 40% will get the same or even more money, a third will get less, while around a quarter will get nothing at all.

The government has also said the new system will be fairer, and the people who need the money the most will still receive it.

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