The government has refused to say what advice it has received from local councils and the Department of Health (DH) about the wider impact of its sweeping cuts to spending on disability living allowance (DLA).
Concerns about the knock-on effects of the cuts, particularly on people’s ability to work, and their increased need for support from local councils and the NHS, were raised in a report by Disability Rights UK (DR UK) last month.
But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has so far been unable to produce any evidence to show that it has analysed these knock-on effects, despite plans to cut spending on working-age DLA by 20 per cent, or £1.4 billion a year by 2015-16.
It insisted this week that DWP ministers and civil servants had held “numerous meetings” with colleagues in DH and local authorities, as part of planning for the replacement of working-age DLA with a new personal independence payment (PIP).
But it has so far been unable to produce any evidence to back-up its claim that councils and the NHS were not likely to see a rise in demand for their services as a result of the cuts, stating only that DWP was “working with Department of Health and local authorities to consider impacts”.
When asked what DH and councils had told DWP about the likely effects of the cuts on demand for their services, a DWP spokesman said: “We will continue to work with Department of Health and local authorities to consider impacts.”
And when asked again exactly what they had told DWP, he said: “We’ve got nothing further to add.”
Last week, the disabled Labour MP Dame Anne Begg raised concerns about the government’s failure to measure the wider impact of its cuts on disabled people.
Dame Anne said that those losing DLA might also be losing employment and support allowance and council-funded social care, and there was an “urgent” need to investigate the impact of all of the cuts on disabled people.
Questioned by the Green MP Caroline Lucas on whether DWP would assess the “cumulative effect” of planned reforms to benefits and services on disabled people, Maria Miller, the Conservative minister for disabled people, said this week that such an analysis would be too complex to undertake.
She said this was because of the “detailed information on individuals and families that is required to estimate the interactions of a number of different policy changes”, while many policy details were “still to be worked through”.
Meanwhile, members of the We Are Spartacus online community of disabled activists have submitted a detailed report to DWP as part of the latest government consultation on the proposed assessment criteria for PIP.
The report, which includes a foreword by the disabled peer Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, makes more than 100 recommendations for improvements to the PIP assessment, and is based on more than 600 responses to a survey. Most of the survey responses came from people who receive DLA.
We Are Spartacus describes itself as “an online information and peer support hub for an emerging movement of disabled and sick people brought together by unease over government reforms and popular discourse around disability”.
2 May 2012