A new report has raised concerns that the coalition government could be planning moves to cut the amount it spends on disability living allowance (DLA).
Although a Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said there had been “no signs” from ministers of an attack on the key disability benefit, the report contains repeated references to its rising cost and the increasing number of people claiming DLA.
The Cabinet Office report, Poverty, Worklessness and Welfare Dependency in the UK, was published on the same day that Iain Duncan Smith, the new work and pensions secretary, set out his “vision” for “radical reform of the welfare system”.
The report points out that the number of working-age adults claiming DLA has risen by 40 per cent in the last decade, while 1.1 million working adults have been claiming DLA for more than five years.
It also says spending on DLA for working?age claimants increased in real terms by almost 60 per cent from 1996-97 to 2009-10.
And it says that more than one in five DLA claimants are in the top two-fifths of income earners, if DLA is included as income and no account is taken of the extra costs of disability.
Rumours have been circulating that the government could be planning to start means-testing DLA or asking disabled people to pay tax on the benefit.
Inclusion London, the capital’s new disabled people’s organisation, said that any attack or restriction on DLA would be “extremely unpopular” and “contribute to excluding and impoverishing disabled people rather than including us and addressing the realities of disability poverty”.
An Inclusion London spokeswoman added: “DLA is meant to address the additional costs of disability – which it never entirely does – and facilitates independence and social inclusion.
“Restricting, means-testing or taxing it would cut against the entire thrust of what DLA is for.”
Disability Alliance (DA), the disability poverty charity, added: “DA remains concerned that government documents consistently fail to highlight research which demonstrates disability benefits – and especially DLA and AA [attendance allowance]– do not reach the full number of people who need them and recommend that some disability benefits be better marketed through public awareness-raising campaigns.
“DA will continue to highlight the higher living costs of disabled people and the need to ensure DLA and AA are retained.”
Last year, the Labour government created uproar among disabled people over possible plans to scrap AA and DLA for those over 65 and merge the savings into social care funding.
The Conservative party campaigned at the election on a pledge to retain DLA and AA.
27 May 2010