Low Review given cool reception


A report into one of the most controversial of the government’s planned welfare reforms has been given a cool reception by leading disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).

The review of the government’s plans to remove mobility payments from disabled people in council-funded residential care concludes that the move would be a serious breach of their human rights.

It says that the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) is “key to meeting the personal mobility needs of care home residents” and “helps disabled people to take charge of their lives as individuals instead of being dealt with impersonally as a group”.

The review was led by the disabled peer Lord [Colin] Low, but was funded and organised by two disability charities, Mencap and Leonard Cheshire Disability, which themselves provide residential services for disabled people.

When the review was announced in July, disabled activists argued that it could not be “independent”, because it was led by two charities that could lose out financially under the government’s plans.

Leading DPOs were also angry that they were not told about the review until just before it was announced and were not asked to join the steering group, which instead was made up of a disabled resident of a Leonard Cheshire residential home, the governor of a special school, a local government expert, the director of a think-tank, and an expert in care provision.

Following the review’s publication this week, Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), said it had been the “right decision” for UKDPC not to take part, because the review had not been led by disabled people and DPOs.

She said she was “really disappointed” that the review had been “very narrow in its remit” and had focused on just one small part of the government’s DLA reforms.

She said the review’s priorities would have been “very different” if UKDPC and other DPOs had been involved in setting it up, which would have led to a “more far-reaching and probably a more interesting inquiry”.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, said he believed the Low Review was “divisive” and had focused on just one aspect of the DLA proposals when the government’s reforms were “fundamentally changing the whole nature of DLA and turning it into a benefit that is related to impairment rather than the extra costs of disability”.

He said Mencap and Leonard Cheshire Disability had focused on people in residential care because of their own “business interests” and were “using disabled people and the name of disabled people to do it”.

Lord Low told Disability News Service there had been many submissions from DPOs and individual disabled people, although Mencap and Leonard Cheshire Disability have yet to publish the list of those organisations that gave evidence.

Although he was not involved in setting up the review, Lord Low said he was “extremely sorry” if DPOs had felt “excluded” from that process, and that the review team subsequently made “extra efforts to contact DPOs and tell them their evidence was most welcome, and a lot of people have responded”.

Lord Low met Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, last week to pass on the report’s main conclusions.

He said: “I am hopeful. I don’t want to put words into the minister’s mouth, but I got the distinct impression that she was taking this very seriously and really thinking carefully about the conclusions of their review.”

The government’s own internal review has not yet been completed.

Miller said: “I have always been clear that I will not make any changes that stop disabled people in care homes from getting out and about.

“My officials have spent the last few months gathering information and evidence, including visiting disabled people in care homes to find out from them and their families about their mobility needs.

“The Low Review has also been looking at some of the same issues and so we will reflect on the outcome of this work before I announce the final decision soon after that.”

3 November 2011