Thousands of younger disabled people will be sucked into plans to slash spending on disability living allowance (DLA), campaigners say.
The chancellor, George Osborne, announced in his emergency budget in June that the government would cut the number of working-age people claiming DLA – and spending on working-age DLA claimants – by 20 per cent by 2016.
Campaigners believed this would apply to disabled people aged 18 to 65, affecting an estimated 365,000 people.
But the government has now confirmed that the cuts will also apply to disabled teenagers aged between 16 and 18.
Neil Coyle, director of policy for the disability poverty charity Disability Alliance (DA), said: “It is potentially another significant cut to the support available to disabled people and at a crucial time in their lives.
“The future of young disabled people is potentially being significantly undermined, despite the government’s insistence that disabled people are being protected through all of their reforms.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said the 20 per cent cuts had always referred to “working age” spending, which meant 16 to 65-year-olds, a position which “was not new and has not changed”.
The government has also admitted that disabled children in residential homes will be affected by the decision – announced in last month’s spending review – to remove the mobility component of DLA from disabled people in council-funded residential care.
Meanwhile, there is concern over the make-up of the advisory group the government has appointed to help develop its new “objective” DLA assessment, which will be introduced from 2013.
Of the group’s 10 members, only two are disabled people from disability organisations, but they are joined by two occupational therapists, a physiotherapist, a psychiatrist, a community psychiatric nurse, a social worker, a health visitor and a GP.
Coyle said DA had offered to advise on the new assessment – but had not been asked to take part.
He said it was “a little bit strange” for the government to suggest that disability organisations were fully part of “co-producing the way forward” when there were so few of them on the advisory group.
He added: “Given DA’s expertise and offer, it seems very strange that we are not part of that.”
The DWP spokesman said the group was “technical in nature” but its members had a “wide range of experience in working with and supporting disabled people, including two representatives of disabled people and disability organisations”.
He added: “We do want to hear wider views though and so will be consulting on our proposals and working with disability organisations throughout the development of the assessment.”
18 November 2010