Minister ignores calls for DLA rethink


The minister for disabled people has ignored calls to reconsider plans to cut a vital mobility-based benefit from disabled people in residential care.

The call from a leading disabled activist came after Maria Miller spoke about her government’s welfare reforms at a conference organised by the disability poverty charity Disability Alliance.

Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living, told Miller that disability living allowance (DLA) had “done much to improve the life chances of disabled people”.

She said the government’s proposal to remove the mobility component of DLA from most disabled people in residential care was “very misinformed and penny-pinching”, and risked adding to their isolation.

She said: “For me, independent living is not about living in your own home, it is about having choice and control and being able to be an active citizen.

“That applies as much to people in residential care as it does to other disabled people.”

And she drew loud applause from other activists when she called on the minister to reconsider the DLA cut.

Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, also attacked proposed cuts to DLA, asking the minister how she could “reconcile” the government’s plans to cut DLA spending by 20 per cent with “your statement that there are fair choices being made”.

Miller ignored Bott’s call to reconsider the cut to the mobility component, but said: “The reason why we have put the reform in place around DLA is because we believe there is a way we can make the money work better for us there.”

She claimed – as she has done previously – that council care packages should already include funding for disabled people’s mobility needs.

She said councils were currently looking at the DLA people in residential care received and then “making assumptions about the sort of package an individual might need”.

She added: “At the moment, there is a duplication of benefits there and with the financial problems we have got it is a way of trying to eke out £100 million.

“This really should not affect materially the access disabled people have to be able to get out and about.”

She also told the conference that the government had no plans to start means-testing DLA, while the new DLA assessment it plans to introduce would be “objective” and would not be a “medical assessment”, as it was mistakenly described by the chancellor in his emergency budget in June.

Meanwhile, members of Disability Alliance agreed at their annual general meeting (AGM), held before the conference, to approve plans to move towards a merger with NCIL and RADAR.

Members of NCIL and RADAR had already backed the plans at their own AGMs this autumn.

11 November 2010