Disability living allowance (DLA) allows disabled people to maintain control and independence in their lives, and helps them avoid having to move into residential care, according to new government-funded research.
The Impact of Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance report, published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), says there is “a wide range of ways” in which DLA and AA enable disabled and older people to pay for the services and goods they need.
The report’s authors – who carried out face-to-face interviews with 45 recipients of DLA and attendance allowance (AA) – say that working-age recipients were “unanimous in expressing views that DLA made a big difference to them”.
Their report concludes that “while DLA or AA often does not go directly towards paying for personal care, the benefits have a key role in reducing potential demand for formal services”, and help people avoid residential care and in “maintaining or avoiding deterioration in health”.
The findings are likely to be seized upon by disabled campaigners fighting government plans to slash the disability benefits bill, with both the chancellor, George Osborne, and Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, highlighting the cost of the DLA budget in recent weeks.
The report says disabled people use DLA and AA to manage their lives “by being able to afford market prices for housework, laundry, garden maintenance, odd jobs and taxi rides; by buying frozen meals or buying hot meals outside the home; by relying on frequent use of telephones, and by running private vehicles”.
The disabled people who were interviewed said DLA and AA provided a safety net, helped them manage their debts, and allowed them to work, to live at home and to be part of society.
A second piece of research for the DWP reports on the possible reasons for the low number of DLA claimants in work.
The Disability Living Allowance and Work report concludes that DLA recipients are, on average, “more severely disabled than other disabled people, and that they suffer higher levels of disadvantage and lower employment rates as a result”.
But it also says that DLA claimants are “significantly less likely to have a job” than other disabled people facing similar employment barriers.
The report says this could be because receiving DLA “will reduce the financial incentive to take up employment”, that taking a job could put their benefits at risk, and because there is a “widespread perception” that DLA provides compensation for those unable to work because of their impairment.
But the report also says that DLA can help people remain in work, and it calls for more support to help those recently disabled to keep their jobs.
Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, said there was a “perverse incentive” for people claiming DLA not to work because of the risk of a DWP spot check on their eligibility if they take a job.
He added: “Actually, if you are going to go into work you are more likely to need support with travel, work clothes and more personal assistance.”
DA is about to begin new research into how DLA is spent, whether it meets people’s needs, how well it supports them to work and whether it “does the job it was intended to do”.
He said: “We are not saying DLA is perfect. We acknowledge there are issues within DLA that we would like to see addressed.”
But he said the government’s plans were about cutting the number of people receiving DLA by 20 per cent, rather than addressing the problems with how DLA works.
8 July 2010