Changes to the way nearly 3,000 disabled people in Bedford Borough claim costs to help them lead fulfilling lives have sparked concern from those affected.
Mike Robus who suffers from multiple sclerosis was last
assessed for the government’s disability living allowance in the early 80s.
But like many others, including 185 residents who became disabled while serving in the armed forces, Mr Robus must be reassessed for his benefit, which he had been assured was for life.
And it is also feared that many disabled Bedford
residents may have to travel to Luton for the assessment, to a a six storey building with no car park.
Mike Robus is just one of thousands who could be affected by changes to the way people are assessed for disabled living allowances.
Mike attends the MS Therapy Centre in Barkers Lane, Bedford, as 1,000 MS sufferers do, and some of thosehave already had problems with the new system.
Mike, who is confined to a wheelchair, will have to be reassessed by contractors ATOS, for the new payment.
Personal independence (PI) payments will replace the current disability living allowance. Of the 500 people who have appealed against the outcome of their assessment, one third have been upheld over flaws in the system.
Mike said: “It does concern me. I was assessed in the early 80s and they said it was for life.” He added: “If I was refused help I would have to appeal, I don’t know how bad you would have to be to get in that
Borough councillor Sue Oliver is campaigning for an assessment centre to be set up in Bedford, after hearing residents may have to travel to Luton.
She said: “Tax payers have a legitimate right to know that those claiming disability benefits genuinely cannot work. But why is there no assessment centre here in Bedford? To ask some of our most vulnerable citizens to travel substantial distances, often on their own is shameful.”
ATOS claimed this week that it would look into providing a centre in Bedford.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions, which brought the changes, said: “The PI payment will include a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews - something missing in the current system. This will ensure the billions we spend on the benefit gives more targeted support to those who need it most.”
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