Is the Government telling deaf people to PIP off on disability benefits?

It took me a while but I finally read through the Department for Work and Pension’s consultation on the eligibility criteria for the new benefits for disabled people, Personal Independence Payments. Otherwise known as PIP. To be fair, there were three, rather long documents, to read through to understand what was being proposed. And I’m still not sure I’ve got it.

For those that don’t know, PIP is the new DLA (Disability Living Allowance), a benefit for disabled people to fund the various additional costs associated with being disabled. Though the Government keep implying otherwise, it’s not linked to employment status. PIP will be introduced from next spring for disabled young people aged 16+. Disabled children have a stay of execution and will remain on DLA for now.

The Government have confirmed that when the move to PIP happens, 500,000 disabled people will lose their PIP. Yup, that’s half a million people who will be worse off. And looking at the guidance, it seems that many deaf people will be among the losers.

This is because in order to get the new “standard” rate of PIP, a deaf person would have to show that they couldn’t understand “basic” information when communicating out and about. Difficulties in understanding anything more than basic information will, on its own, not get you the points you need to qualify. Examples given in the document seem to suggest that only deaf people who communicate entirely and solely in sign language will be eligible for the new PIP. Everyone else, it would seem, nothing.

Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions recently said that deafness was a “moderate” disability. The policy intention is that funding needs to be taken away from deaf people and given to those with more severe disabled needs. This is obviously a rather narrow way to frame political choices. It’s also an approach that treats deaf people as being less “deserving” of support, regardless of any additional support that may be needed to understand more than just “hello” and “bye bye” and which ignores the additional costs and disadvantaged associated with being deaf in a hearing world.

The National Deaf Children’s Society have drafted a short guide on what the changes might mean for deaf young people. This also include some tips and suggestions on how to respond to the consultation. If you think the changes are unfair, I would encourage you to have your say and ask the Government to raise the threshold of support to make sure deaf people get the help they need.


5 thoughts on “Is the Government telling deaf people to PIP off on disability benefits?

  1. *mutters*
    So let me take this in…..
    We all know that the government is messed up, full of arrogant selfish ‘ministers’
    See if we truly need to cut the benefit fundings, i would understand but have you seen the figures of how much these guys earn?!


    It’s not the deaf people that’s the problem, its the bloody government.

    If they want to go ahead with the PIP, they should have a scale of deafness, not just the deep end of deafness.

    I’m bearly meeting the months end WITH DLA, so without it is just horrible.

  2. Funnily enough I woke up this morning thinking this needs blogging, as this came up in a meeting on Sunday. I’ve only written about this some weeks ago on Facebook. I’m glad you’ve written about it.

    Not necessarily only those who communicate in sign language, will get it. Look at the criteria for ESA, where there is also a criteria for “basic communication”. Use that as a guideline. Basic communication means something like the location of a fire escape, without needing assistance from another person.

    This is the ATOS handbook:

    “Cannot understand a simple message due to sensory impairment, such as the location of a fire escape.

    This descriptor relates to an individual’s ability to understand communication at a very basic level. Those with severe hearing restriction can often lip read but if they are unable to this descriptor must be considered. Vision would have to be considered in this area. The descriptor reflects only basic comprehension of writing and is not intended to reflect any higher level of literacy.”

    None of this of course reflects what happens in real life, the criteria is very artifical. As I said on Sunday, most deaf people will not get PIP and I don’t think people realise it.

    • I serve to meet your wishes!

      On “basic”, agree there’s grounds for concern over the meaning of this as it relates to deaf people. The slight glimmer of hope is that the various documents produced by DWP do give a sign language user as an example of someone who would be eligible for standard rate PIP. Though obviously not all sign language users are equal.

      Agree that a lot of deaf people are sleepwalking towards the loss of their benefits unless they speak out soon.


      • Ha! In all honesty, it was the first thought I woke up to this morning and I must blog about this today. Perhaps telepathy works. 😉

        What concerns me, this is not tested “out there”. It is tested in a clinical environment by a doctor or a nurse, who won’t necessarily have training in deaf or will understand this at a very basic level. The tick boxes will be a computer exercise, there’s no room for subjectivity. In optimal conditions, good lighting, one to one, no background noise, etc … then many people will understand the fire exit is over there, then turn left. That’s it. And thus will not qualify them for PIP. It will ignore the rest of the examples such people have to face in the real world to gain access to communication and the additional expense that comes with it (which I’ve previously blogged about).

        Whilst the government says BSL users, ultimately this is going to be tested by whomever has the contract. In the case of ESA, those doing the assessing get paid for failing people. (They don’t earn anything for passing someone). Will there be a similar set up – thus potential bias – for PIP?

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