The knock-on effects of the government’s huge cuts to spending on disability living allowance (DLA) could wipe out every penny of the savings it is hoping for, according to a new report.
The Disability Rights UK (DR UK) report, Impact Assessing the Abolition of Working Age DLA, accuses the government of ignoring the effects on disabled people’s lives of cutting working-age DLA spending by 20 per cent, or £1.4 billion a year by 2015/16.
The report analyses the likely impact on disabled people’s ability to work, and their extra need for NHS services and local authority support.
It says that the government’s claim that there will be no such knock-on effects is a “falsehood” and describes its failure to carry out a proper analysis as “irresponsible”.
DR UK estimates that the extra costs could wipe out any planned savings, and even its lowest estimates add up to more than a third of the government’s intended savings. The report’s estimates range from about £600 million a year to as much as £3 billion.
DR UK also points to last month’s report by the joint committee on human rights, which warned of a “significant risk” that the government’s welfare reforms and cuts to disability benefits and services could put disabled people’s right to independent living at risk.
DR UK is among about 20 organisations examining potential legal challenges to parts of the new Welfare Reform Act, which will see working-age DLA replaced by a new personal independence payment (PIP), among many other cuts to benefits and sweeping reforms to the welfare system.
Neil Coyle, DR UK’s director of policy and campaigns, said: “It is a very real prospect that the government will see a challenge to the Welfare Reform Act, or multiple challenges.”
The new report uses figures from a survey carried out last year, which found 56 per cent of disabled people with jobs said they would have to stop or reduce that work if they lost their DLA, while one in six would be forced to make more use of the NHS, and one in seven would need to make greater use of council services.
It uses these figures to estimate the cost to the government of lost tax and national insurance, and extra payments of out-of-work benefits.
It also estimates the cost of obtaining independent medical evidence from GPs and consultants as part of the new PIP assessment process, and of extra spending on GP appointments and hospital stays as a result of reduced support.
Finally, the report adds in the possible costs of extra council support at home or in residential homes, due to disabled people being less able to live independently.
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokeswoman disputed DR UK’s figures and said the reforms had been “open to an unprecedented level of examination from stakeholders, members of the public to politicians” and that DWP had consulted widely with disabled people and their organisations.
Asked by Disability News Service whether it would now carry out an analysis of the knock-on effects of the cuts, she said DWP had “already committed to publishing more information when it becomes available”.
She added: “The changes to DLA will make sure support goes to those who need it most, with more support going to a higher proportion under PIP.”
19 April 2012