Three leading disabled campaigners have told MPs examining the government’s new welfare reform bill of their serious concerns about the impact of the proposed legislation on disabled people’s lives.
Mike Adams, chief executive of Essex Coalition of Disabled People, Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living, and Andrew Lee, director of People First (Self Advocacy), all gave evidence to the welfare reform bill committee this week.
Both Bott and Adams cast doubt on the government’s justification for removing the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) from most people in residential care, proposals the government has now agreed to review.
The government has repeatedly claimed there is an “overlap” in funding, with some councils providing funding for the mobility of residents who also receive the mobility component.
But Adams said that – as a board member of a private sector residential care provider – he had seen “no evidence” of councils providing such funding.
Bott added later: “I have not seen any evidence to demonstrate that local authorities are paying for the mobility of people in residential care.”
She told the MPs she was against the cut “on principle”, and added: “Independent living is about choice and control in your life. It is not just for people who live in their own homes. Independent living is a way of life wherever you live.
“To my mind it is an absolute fundamental principle that people who are in residential care should have mobility allowance so that they can come and go as you would in anyone’s home.”
Bott, Adams and Lee all expressed concerns about the lack of clear information and transparency in the government’s welfare reforms.
Lee was particularly scathing, and told the MPs that there was a “massive communication problem” in informing people with learning difficulties about the government’s plans for a new universal credit to simplify the benefits system.
He also said that people with learning difficulties he had spoken to knew “absolutely nothing” about the DLA reforms, and he criticised the government’s failure to tell people with learning difficulties about its reforms in an accessible way.
Adams told the committee that he was not aware of any evidence that people were fraudulently claiming DLA, whereas in Essex “there are probably a lot of people out there who are not claiming DLA who should be”.
Bott said she was “very concerned” about the proposed one year time limit for disabled people who claim the contributory form of employment and support allowance.
She told the MPs: “There is no sense in plunging disabled people into further poverty. It just makes getting out of that situation more difficult.”
23 March 2011