Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has launched another government attack on disability living allowance (DLA), claiming that spending on the key disability benefit had “spiralled out of control”.
Duncan Smith told MPs during the final day of the budget debate that the DLA system had been “vulnerable to error, abuse and, in some cases, outright fraud”.
His comments followed last week’s comments about spending on DLA – using similar language – in George Osborne’s budget statement.
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show spending on DLA has risen in real terms from £6.7 billion in 1997/98 to an estimated £11.7 billion in 2009/10.
DWP figures also show that estimated DLA fraud for 2009/10 was £60 million, just 0.5 per cent of the money spent on DLA.
Estimated incapacity benefit (IB) fraud was also just 0.5 per cent, or £30 million.
These figures compare with far higher levels of fraud among claimants of income support (2.8 per cent, £240 million), jobseeker’s allowance (2.5 per cent, £120 million) and carer’s allowance (3.9 per cent, £60 million).
Duncan Smith also confirmed that the government would implement new rules agreed by MPs last year, which will allow severely visually-impaired people to claim the higher rate of the mobility component of DLA, instead of the lower rate.
The new rules will come into effect in April 2011 and should mean an extra £30.90 a week for about 22,000 people.
Later in the debate, Conservative MP Stewart Jackson complained that 6,000 of his constituents “languish” on DLA, and “most shockingly, more than 1,000 of them languished on that particular benefit for more than 12 years”.
Maria Eagle, Labour’s former disabled people’s minister, said: “People who work receive DLA. It is not a benefit that one languishes upon. It is a recognition from society that disabled people need a little extra support to enable them to participate in life.”
She said the introduction of a new medical test for those on DLA “looks like harassment”, and appeared to be a way of cutting the number of people on DLA by a fifth in order to save money.
Following the debate, Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, said the government had clearly been trying to condition people, including MPs, to accept that cuts to the IB and DLA budgets were “unavoidable” and “necessary”, when they were not.
1 July 2010