The government has refused to rule out scrapping disability living allowance (DLA) as part of its proposed adult social care reforms.
Concerns over the future of the key disability benefit, which is not means-tested and is intended to cover the extra costs of an impairment, were raised after the government published its care and support green paper in July.
The green paper, currently out to consultation, stated: “We think we should consider integrating some elements of disability benefits, for example attendance allowance, to create a new offer for individuals with care needs.”
This could mean money currently allocated for AA being used instead by social services to help fund means-tested personal budgets.
But some campaigners raised concerns that DLA (or at least its care component) could also be “integrated” into council funds, with more than 13,000 people signing up within five days to a campaign to save AA and DLA launched by the Benefits and Work website.
Many disabled people have also expressed their concerns about DLA and AA on the government’s Big Care Debate website.
But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) this week declined to rule out the possibility of scrapping DLA.
When asked if scrapping DLA was an option, a DWP spokesman said: “It depends on what people say in the consultation. We need to see what people say when they respond.
“We are consulting and we will be listening to what people have to say. It’s not an open consultation if you start closing down options.”
The comments came after a series of disability charities took steps to reassure their members that they will fight any plans to scrap DLA and AA.
The National Autistic Society said DLA was a “crucial benefit” for people with autism and “integrating DLA into local authority social care funding” would have “disastrous consequences”.
The RNIB said it was “strongly opposed” to scrapping AA, which is claimed by more than 53,000 blind and partially-sighted people, and would also be strongly opposed to any plans to abolish DLA.
The RNID is asking members how they use their AA and DLA , while the Disability Benefits Consortium said its members “strongly oppose any proposals for using existing benefits to fund social care”.
And the MS Society is “actively seeking clarification” from the government on whether the proposal to divert funds from disability benefits includes DLA.
The consultation ends on 13 November. Visit www.careandsupport.direct.gov.uk
3 September 2009