Stonebird Briefing Paper : DLA Reforms

The Lived experience of Severe ME  

Briefing Paper : DLA Reforms

The Consultation on Disability living Allowance, a ten-week, rather than the minimum recommended twelve week consultation period, closes on Feb 14th .

People with Severe  ME experience complex, debilitating  cognitive and processing issues. It can very difficult indeed researching or  understanding the issues. To help, I have triedto gather  together ,   some relevant background information: what are the proposed reforms ? What are their implications ?

The reforms are going to be bad enough for most people with a disability,  but people with ME face the added stigma and burden of a poorly understood neurological disease and psychiatric prejudice.

The Government has a (long)  list of questions it would like you to respond to . The questions can be found here :

Greg Crowhurst 7th February 2011

From : “Counting the Cost “

Disability benefit claimants are  set to lose £9 billion in benefits over the course of the next parliament.

Disabled people have lower incomes than average and are
disproportionately likely to live below the poverty threshold.
They also have higher costs

Many disabled people need to spend more than non-disabled people to achieve the same standard of living. This can include anything from increased electricity bills associated with running medical equipment and doing laundry more often, to increased transport costs and specialist clothing, to having to buy more expensive ready-prepared food which is easier to cook.

Around 3 million (1.8 million working age) disabled people currently receive DLA at an average award of around £70 per week, split into two separately assessed components—care and mobility. Research suggests that DLA is used by disabled people in countless ways, including buying gifts for family and friends in order to maintain informal care networks and is often used to help keep people in employment, as it can be spent on household support or childcare, for example.

Yet in an attempt to cut £18 billion from the welfare budget, the government has proposed a raft of reforms and cuts to DLA and other benefits.

From : HIV Benefits

DLA's replacement – personal independence payment – will be a non-means-tested and non-taxable benefit, available to people in and out of work, like its predecessor.
However, the reforms will tighten eligibility in several ways:
• Claimants will have to have had an impairment or health condition for six months, not three, as at present.
• A wider range of aids and adaptations will be taken into account in the assessment process, meaning that people who can get about in wheelchairs may be ineligible.
• There will no longer be automatic entitlements for people with specific health conditions.
• All claimants will be assessed by a healthcare professional approved by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The changes are designed to implement proposals in the Budget to reform the assessment system for DLA, in order to reduce expenditure and the number of claimants by 20%.
The existing mobility and care components of the benefits will be replaced by similar measures looking at people's level of independence and ability to carry out the activities necessary to participate in everyday life.
The reforms will be introduced for new and existing claimants of working age from 2013 and could be extended to children or pensioners.

From : DLA reform consultation: Great Expectations, Worst Apprehensions

These proposed reforms suggests introducing "conditionality" into the system (paragraph 2.35). The idea is that as part of the PIP, recipients will be required to discuss their circumstances with a professional who offers advice and "helps them access specialist support".

Throughout the reform consultation there are references and suggestions that DLA should no longer cover the sorts of support it used to, to take account of the fact that aids, adaptations and equipment are now more part of the general landscape. So, where the mobility test used to be based on ability to walk, the mobility test will now be based on being able to get around - and if there's a wheelchair involved, that will suffice.

The fraud rate for DLA is 0.5% - a rate significantly lower than Income Support (2.9% fraud rate), Incapacity Benefit (1%) and Jobseekers Allowance (2.8%). Indeed, it's lower than the office error rate for the DWP, which stands at 0.6.

From : Petition the minister for disabled people to recall the public consultation on DLA Reform .

The consultation questions are deeply skewed and any answers will be likely to support wholesale reform. This is both unfair and
unwise, and will cause hardship for many disabled people.

The idea that the reformed DLA system provides "unconditional" support is palpably nonsense. Moving from the system (where people can self-assess) to one where the explicit aim of the reform is to reduce the number of recipients and spend by 20% is quite the opposite.

The case for reform has been criticized, and then completely demolished, by the various disability rights groups fighting reform. They accuse the DWP of building their argument without sufficient evidence. The claims that DLA can act as a barrier to work, in particular, are robustly questioned. Questions are also raised concerning the accuracy of the representation of supporting data.
For example, the claim is made that DLA claims have risen by 30% in eight years - without accounting for population growth of 5% in this period, a pronounced demographic shift, and increased awareness of DLA.

The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) appears to be a case of cuts dressed as positive reform. Disability rights groups and charities have uniformly condemned the proposals, warning of dire consequences. The list of those affected includes: people who are mobile with aids; people with disabilities so severe that they are unable to be very active; care home residents; those who receive local authority care packages. Most other disabled people will suffer through needless reassessments upon the introduction of PIP, and re-testing every few years even when a condition cannot be treated.

Whilst there may be ways to improve DLA, they do not involve replacing it with a new benefit, and neither do they involve removing anyone from the claimant caseload.

From :The Scotsman
 Author's suicide 'due to slash in benefits'
25 July 2010
By Marc Horne and Mark Smith

FRIENDS of an acclaimed Scottish writer have accused the new government's crackdown on welfare benefits of being a factor in his suicide.

Paul Reekie, who, along with Irvine Welsh, was part of a wave of young Scottish authors who rose to international prominence in the 1990s, killed himself in his Edinburgh home last month.

The Leith-based writer and poet, who was 48, left no suicide note but friends say letters informing him that his welfare benefits were to be halted were found close to his body.

From : The BBC
8 January 2011
Benefit revamp 'to make work pay'

Plans to cut disability benefits could breach human rights laws, the
government has been warned. Ministers want to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new Personal Independence Payment.

The government says the changes are designed to streamline the system as well as make cuts of 20%.

Disability lawyer Mike Charles told the BBC the moves could be unlawful if they denied individuals the right to quality of life.

His opinion is backed up by other specialist disability lawyers.

Charities including Disability Alliance claim the proposals are not about simplifying the system but are about removing 380,000 claimants from it.

From : Community Care
Vern Pitt
Friday 14 January 2011 09:41

Half of working disability living allowance (DLA) claimants will have to stop working if they are deemed ineligible for the benefit as a result of proposed government cuts, a survey by Disability Alliance has found.

The results were released at the start of a three-day online campaign - One Month Before Heartbreak - against government plans to reform the benefit, which the alliance estimates could see 750,000 people lose support, and other disability cuts.


From : Community Care

Ministers' justification for disability benefit cut 'false'
Mithran Samuel
Wednesday 12 January 2011 12:16

Charities have rebuffed the government's key justification for cutting up to £50 a week in mobility benefits for disabled care home residents and have called for the policy to be scrapped.

The payment will be withdrawn in October 2012 after ministers claimed publicly-funded residents already received council funding for mobility in their care packages.

But in a report today endorsed by council leaders, a coalition of 27 charities and disability organisations said this contention was false.

A survey of 22 care home providers found half received no contribution from councils towards the costs of transport, while those that did were funded only for travel costs deemed necessary to meet residents' assessed care needs.

None was funded to provide personal transport for residents, for which the DLA mobility component is used. A separate survey of 100 care home residents found that all used their mobility component to pay for transport and petrol or mobility aids to visit friends or go to college and for leisure activities.

From : Community Care

Do government ministers need disability equality training?
By Vern Pitt, journalist, on December 8, 2010 11:18 AM

Disability Alliance, the disability organisation which focuses on benefits, was quick to point out that the consultation on disability living allowance reform is only running for nine weeks, not the usual 12. It is measures like this that make disabled people rightly suspicious of the motives for change.

From : The Broken of Britain

Scotland Condemns Disability Living Allowance Reform

S3M-7891 Kenneth Gibson: Disability Living Allowance Reform—That the Parliament condemns the decision by the UK Government to reform the Disability Living Allowance benefit in the way that it has; recognises the importance of this benefit to thousands of disabled people across the country and believes that the proposed reforms will have a negative impact on those who currently receive it; considers that there are serious flaws in the consultation paper and that there is little evidence to support the Department for Work and Pensions’ case for such reform; further believes that it is likely that benefit expenditure will fall but that health and social care expenditure will inevitably increase, thus transferring the burden of cost to areas that the Scottish Parliament is responsible for, and, as such, calls on the Minister for Disabled People to withdraw the proposals.

From : The Disability Law Service

In a searing attack on the government’s plans, the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL) said they hinted at a “hidden agenda” to dismantle the support provided by the key benefit.
Sue Bott, NCIL’s director, said the proposals – launched this week by Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people – gave the impression that “virtually no-one is going to be entitled to the new benefit”.
She said the consultation document was “vague”, “rushed”, “half-hearted”, “full of contradictions” and disguised the government’s “hidden agenda”.
She said: “It comes across as the agenda is to abandon DLA entirely and to put in its place a dubious benefit that is not going to achieve the outcomes DLA has been achieving, and very few people will be entitled to.”
Bott said that proposals to take greater account of how people use aids such as wheelchairs, while removing eligibility from those “who don’t get support from anywhere else”, felt like “heads you lose, tails you lose”.
She said: “It just seems naive in the extreme, saying you have a wheelchair so you don’t have any mobility issues. I just don’t get it.”

From : The Daily Telegraph

As one senior Government source put it to me: “It is quite
possible that there will be cases of suicide.”


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