Government reforms to disability living allowance (DLA) could lead to more than 835, 000 disabled people losing an “essential lifeline of support”, according to three leading disability organisations.
The Disability Rights Partnership (DRP) – the working title for the proposed merger of Disability Alliance (DA), RADAR and the National Centre for Independent Living – said the changes would have “a hugely detrimental effect” on a “significant number of disabled people and their families”.
The warning came in DRP’s response to the government’s consultation on its proposed DLA reforms, which closed on 18 February.
Under the proposals, which will be introduced through the new welfare reform bill, DLA will be replaced by a new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) from 2013.
But the three organisations were deeply critical of the reforms, which they said were “underpinned” by the government’s plans to cut DLA spending on working-age people by a fifth – saving £2.17 billion by the end of 2015/16.
DRP warned that it was “very likely” that all current DLA recipients were at risk of losing some support, through lower rates, reduced eligibility or direct cuts, with the 643,000 disabled people on the low rate care component most at risk.
The partnership said the cuts to DLA spending would mean “disabled people shouldering a disproportionately large share of the burden of tackling the national deficit”.
And it said the reforms would increase costs for the NHS and councils, and reduce tax and national insurance revenue for the government when disabled people were forced to give up their jobs, or work fewer hours.
DRP also said the consultation had been too short to allow a proper analysis of the impact of the proposals, which also lacked detail, creating “anxiety for many disabled people and their families”.
DRP produced a string of recommendations, including the introduction of a sliding scale of support, rather than “regimented” lower and higher PIP rates; further analysis of disabled people’s costs; and for any new assessment to be in keeping with the “personalisation” agenda and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.
The partnership also called for any new assessment to take account of the maintenance and ongoing costs of aids and equipment; and for there to be annual, independent reviews of PIP’s implementation.
More than 1,700 people completed DA’s survey on the government’s proposals, with the results included in DRP’s response.
Less than 10 per cent of the respondents said DLA covered all their disability-related costs, such as transport, heating and laundry, and aids and equipment.
23 February 2011