Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Medicine and the Media

Atos and changes to disabled people’s benefits

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 14 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1114
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}

New systems to assess eligibility for disability benefits may not be up to the job. Margaret McCartney investigates

The Welfare Reform Bill stutters through parliament. It proposes changes to housing benefit, caps to benefits, and changes to the disability living allowance. This allowance is currently paid with two components, for mobility and care. Claimants must have a severe disability, which means that they need help with basic personal care or require supervision to avoid danger. Mobility allowance is paid to people who are bilateral amputees; are unable or virtually unable to walk without severe discomfort or are at “risk of endangering life”; need guidance or care most of the time; or have severely impaired sight. The bill seeks to replace disability living allowance with “personal independence payments,” making a 20% cost saving in the process. The peer Tanni Grey-Thompson sought two crossbench amendments. She wanted to make it obligatory for assessors of eligibility for personal independence payments to seek evidence from the claimant’s healthcare professional. She had also tabled amendments for a trial period and an independent review. Neither amendment was …

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