Press release issued: 6 July 2015

People who are sight impaired, or who are Deaf or have dual sensory loss are faced with increased threats to their income levels, as evidenced by two pieces of research from Thomas Pocklington Trust. (1)

  • Recently released findings (2) found that when applying the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) methodology to the living costs of people who are sight impaired or who are Deaf, substantial extra sums are incurred if a minimum acceptable standard of living is to be attained. The study, carried out by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, found that even when people have some vision, sight loss affects so many aspects of life that additional costs increase the weekly budget accepted as the Minimum Income Standard by over £50, as compared to a sighted adult.
  • Some of these additional costs involve technological items related to sight loss, such as vision aids, assistive computer software and complex prescription spectacles, and these are one-off costs. The majority of additional costs are ongoing and are to do with extra expenses in day-to-day life, such as cleaning, paying for occasional domestic help and additional expenses to travel and take part in social activities. These ongoing costs are not recognised in Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments and the research findings identify that ‘there is a high risk of needs going unmet or only partially met under the PIP system’.
  • Phase 1 of a larger study, released today (3) explored the experiences of 14 people with a visual impairment or who had dual sensory impairment involved in claiming PIP. This phase of the study, carried out by researchers at the University of Birmingham and jointly supported by Pocklington, RNIB and Sense, found that the PIP application process was generally viewed as negative by participants. One of the key reasons for this was that the time taken to process claims was much longer than originally indicated by the Department of Work and Pensions. In some cases these delays caused real financial hardship, particularly when participants were applying for disability benefits for the first time.
  • The findings from this study also revealed that claimants sometimes found it difficult to identify expenses associated with their sight loss, e.g. additional heating, washing and cleaning, because these became ‘normalised’ and claimants didn’t realise that they were doing something different from other people. Support when making claims, particularly in helping understand the points system related to the PIP assessment, was considered extremely valuable but was not always available to participants in this study.

The rumours that taxation of PIP may be announced in the Chancellor’s Budget this week, which could also include Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for those aged 16-64 who have not yet transferred to PIP, add to these concerns regarding the income levels of people with sight loss.

Sarah Buchanan, Research Director at Thomas Pocklington Trust said: “These two pieces of research provide important evidence underlining the real costs of daily living for people with sight loss. Add to that the anxieties around PIP and the long time that assessments take, and people with sight loss are facing increasing concerns about how to make ends meet. The research findings, combined with the everyday views and experiences of people with sight loss show how important it is for the true costs of living with sight loss to be recognised and understood. Taxing DLA and PIP will remove a valuable extra-costs benefit that was designed to create a more level playing field for those with, and without, disabilities. It could only make life harder for people with sight loss.”

Pocklington is working closely with RNIB(4) to challenge any danger that disability benefits are taxed. People with sight loss are writing to their MPs to ask for their support on this issue. (5)

Editor’s Notes:

  1. Thomas Pocklington Trust is a national charity for people with sight loss. It commissions and funds social and public health research to identify ways to improve the lives of people with sight loss. www.pocklington-trust.org.uk
  2. Defining a Minimum Income Standard for people who are sight impaired: Research Findings 45 is available at http://www.pocklington-trust.org.uk/researchandknowledge/publications/rf45minimumincomestandards.htm . The full report is available at http://www.lboro.ac.uk/research/crsp/publications/ Research participants were single people of working age, living alone in the community and whose sight loss meant they were eligible for a Certificate of Visual Impairment as sight impaired. The study also looked at costs for single working age adults who were profoundly Deaf and used British Sign Language. The MIS weekly budget for a sighted person (excluding rent) is £198.60. Information on MIS can be found at http://www.minimumincomestandard.org
  3. Experiences of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people with sensory loss: Research Findings 48 is available at http://www.pocklington-trust.org.uks/news/news_channels/misandpipresearch. The full report is available at http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/education/victar/research/experiences-of-personal-independence-payment-on-people-with-sensory-loss.aspx
  4. The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is the leading national charity of and for blind people and those with sight problems. http://www.rnib.org.uk/
  5. People can support RNIB’s campaign against the taxation of disability benefits by visiting the RNIB website at http://www.rnib.org.uk/campaigning/current-campaigns/employment-and-welfare and adding their name and comments to the growing list of people sending messages to their MPs. If you would like to tweet on the issue, the hashtag is #DontTaxPIP.
    For press enquiries please call Pocklington’s press office on 0800 756 6660

For general enquiries please contact Phil Ambler, Policy Director, Thomas Pocklington Trust on 07980 903253.