Half of disabled people who claim disability living allowance (DLA) and have jobs would be forced to stop working or reduce their hours if they lost their entitlement to the benefit, according to a new survey.
The survey, being carried out by Disability Alliance in response to a government consultation on its controversial DLA reforms, has prompted a huge response from disabled people, with more than 1,000 replies so far.
Interim results of the survey show that, of roughly one in four respondents who said they worked, half said they would have to cut back their working hours or quit their job if their DLA was taken away.
The chancellor, George Osborne, announced in June that the government would cut the 1.8 million working-age people claiming DLA – as well as spending on working-age DLA claimants – by 20 per cent by 2016.
Last month, the government warned that spending on DLA had become “unsustainable” and “poorly targeted”, and published plans for widespread reforms. It will start to reassess all working-age claimants of DLA in 2013, through a new assessment. A consultation on its plans ends on 14 February.
Disability Alliance (DA) believes the government will have to remove DLA from 750,000 people if it wants to achieve planned savings of £1 billion a year. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said it did not recognise DA’s figures.
But Neil Coyle, DA’s director of policy, said 750,000 was a “conservative estimate” and the total impact would be “much higher”, with the numbers rising even higher if the government extended its cuts to older people and children.
Many respondents to the DA survey said they would “lose the will to live” if they did not have the financial support DLA provided.
One said: “If I lose my lower rates of DLA, I will lose my car, I will lose my own job and I might well lose my own life.”
Another said: “DLA makes a difference between having a tiny bit of independence and life not being worth living.”
While another said: “I wouldn’t survive and would end it all.”
Coyle said the government had “wildly under-estimated” the impact of cutting DLA.
He said many people who responded to the survey described DLA as their “lifeline”.
He said: “Disabled people are incredibly anxious and fearful about what change will mean.”
The DWP disputed DA’s conclusions. A DWP spokeswoman said its reforms – which will see DLA renamed the Person Independence Payment (PIP) – would “help us protect DLA for the future and ensure that the £12bn we spend on it goes where it is needed the most”, while it would continue to be non-means-tested and paid to people in and out of work.
She said: “At the moment, 80 per cent of people on DLA do not work and we want to make sure that disabled people who can work get all the help and support they need to do so.”
19 January 2011