Disability Living Allowance (DLA) reform
14 February 2011
With the government proposing to radically reform Disability Living Allowance (DLA), disabled people’s feelings about the allowance and their concerns have been flooding into Scope. Ahead of the end of the government’s consultation, reported to be on Friday 18 February, their testimonies show that for disabled people the payments are a necessity that lets them live their own lives and do things that most people take for granted.
DLA was introduced in 1992 because day-to-day activities cost more if you are disabled.
This can include anything from increased electricity bills, running medical equipment and doing laundry more often, to increased transport costs, specialist clothing and having to buy more expensive ready-made food which is easier to cook.
But the government wants to replace the allowance with a Personal Independence Payment (PIP), introducing new assessments and in the process cutting the budget and caseload by 20%.
Scope is publishing the comments, which have been given in person, over the phone and online, because it argues that before the system is reformed the Government needs to understand how, where and why disabled people’s lives are more expensive.
Cutting DLA, the charity argues, contradicts the Government’s aim of giving disabled people more choice and control over their lives.
In a formal submission, it adds that specific proposals – such as a lengthy waiting and assessment time and the cutting of the mobility component for people in residential care – could also leave many more isolated and pushed further into poverty.
Then with the Government planning to focus on those with the ‘highest medical need’ there is a danger that disabled people who don’t receive other social care support could find themselves isolated and dependent, which in turn could increase costs in other areas or the NHS.
Meanwhile research shows that DLA is actually under-paid, has an extremely low rate of fraud and has an arduous application process.
Here is a selection of the comments Scope has received:
"My sense of dignity as a person and my life as a normal citizen of my community would both be destroyed if I lost my independence." Marie Lauruol, 29
“What the hell am I meant to live on? If they take away my mobility, I won’t be able to do anything. It is horrendous. When I was stuck at home, it made me angry and frustrated. Coming to the day centre has helped me become more independent. Without the DLA I am back to square one. My ambition is to work with other disabled people – act as an advocate. I want to do a course at college. But without transport, I won’t be able to. I will end up sitting in bed all day." Anthony Rew, 44
"I write a blog about my experiences, which is my connection to the outside world. The DLA helps me pay for an internet connection at home." Alison Scott, 45
"Having a disability makes life very hard. Your financial means are seriously reduced as are the choices you have in all areas of your life. The DLA is very important to all disabled people because it goes some way to alleviate some distress." Anon
"We wouldn't be able to have a high cost fuel vehicle. It would also cause isolation and would destroy J’s independence. We rely on an expensive adapted vehicle to support J…" Julia, mother of J, 18
"My daughter Hannah’s DLA lets us buy equipment and clothing appropriate for her, that parents of similar aged children would not need to provide, or just to be able to do things together as a family that many others take for granted. We’ve had to experiment with many different types of cutlery, plates and drinking beakers, whereas most other kids can adapt to anything available. We go through many more sets of clothes; at nearly seven years old she can only move around the house by bottom shuffling so there is considerable more wear and tear than normal. There’s the additional nappies as the incontinence service provision is probably about a third of our actual needs. Living in a rural location we’ve had to buy an adapted buggy as her provided wheelchair is only appropriate for school and high street pavements; plus our additional travel costs in going to the many therapy and medical appointments that Hannah attends." Ros Lloyd, mother of Hannah, 6
"Having a disability makes life very hard. Your financial means are seriously reduced as are the choices you have in all areas of your life. The DLA is very important to all disabled people because it goes some way to alleviate some distress, so please don't make life harder for us than it really is." Anon
Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of Scope, said:
“The Government has a fantastic opportunity to introduce a well-targeted allowance, which accurately assesses where disabled people incur costs.
“But we are concerned that reform is motivated by a desire to reduce expenditure and the number of people who receive support rather than improve the system.
“The DLA is a lifeline that allows millions of disabled people to do the everyday things that most people take for granted.
“We welcome Iain Duncan Smith’s efforts to modernise the system, but we urge him to speak to disabled people and find out how crucial the DLA is to them.”
Disability: where extra costs are incurred
- Home adaptations and equipment are significant areas of spending.
- Disabled people relying on public transport have significantly higher costs than those with cars, not only due to public transport spending but also to additional spending on private transport when public transport is not suitable or accessible.
- Improving employment rates among disabled people would reduce the significant costs of being disabled and unemployed, which are borne by state benefits. A more personalised and targeted welfare to work scheme would help disabled people move into work and stay there.
- Specialist equipment, clothing, food, non-prescription medicine and medical products that are not available on the NHS should be open to greater competition to ensure disability products are affordable.
Disability Living Allowance – some background
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was introduced because the costs of living are higher if you are disabled. According to the government it is claimed by more than 1.8 million working age people.
The government plans to cut 20% from the budget and caseload. The government also plans to axe the ‘mobility component’, which is used by about 80,000 people living in residential care to enable them to leave their homes, get out and about in the community, go shopping and visit friends and family.
Notes to the Editor:
For more information please contact Warren Kirwan in the Scope press office on 020 7619 7200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For out-of-hours press enquiries please call 020 7619 7200.