Minister avoids answering questions on threat to DLA


Care services minister Phil Hope has refused to say which disability benefits the government is considering scrapping and “integrating” into local authority social services budgets.

The refusal came as he responded to a series of questions put to him about the care and support green paper by members of the disability poverty charity Disability Alliance.

Hope was asked which disability benefits, apart from attendance allowance (AA), the government was considering integrating into councils’ social care budgets.

AA was mentioned explicitly in the green paper but there have been widespread concerns that the government also intends to scrap disability living allowance (DLA).

But in answer to the question, Hope said: “We are working on answers to all of the Disability Alliance’s questions and apologies we haven’t been able to so far.” He said he would provide an answer to the question “soon”.

Disability Alliance said in its October members’ newsletter that it was “very frustrating” that over halfway through the green paper consultation, which ends on 13 November, Hope was unable to clarify which benefits were being considered for “integration”.

Hope was also unable to respond to a question that asked for reassurance for disabled people worried that using the care component of DLA to fund social care would be a threat to their “freedom of choice and independence”.

In answer to another question, the minister said the social care and disability benefits systems had developed “in isolation from each other” and so were fragmented and “complex to understand, access and navigate”.

He added: “This can lead to inconsistent and unfair outcomes. Bringing them together helps tackle this, under a new and better National Care Service.”

Hope also provided further evidence that the government favours moving further towards a means-tested system of support, at least for those with “lower” needs.

He was asked how the government would ensure that eligibility criteria and means-testing would not prevent those who currently qualify for disability benefits from accessing care and support.

He replied: “In the future, everyone with high needs, and people who are on low incomes with lower levels of need who do not currently qualify for social care services, will be entitled to funding from the new care and support system.”

12 October 2009