Opposition MPs have failed in an attempt to force the government to abandon the most controversial element of its disability living allowance (DLA) reforms.
The failed bid came from Labour members of the Commons committee set up to examine the government’s welfare reform bill, which this week began to discuss the clauses that will replace DLA with a new personal independence payment (PIP).
Margaret Curran, Labour’s shadow disabled people’s minister, said plans to remove the mobility component of DLA from about 80,000 people in residential homes would “leave many disabled people trapped in their own homes”.
The coalition had intended to introduce the cut in 2012, but now says the proposal is under review as part of its wider reforms.
Curran said this government review was “shrouded in secrecy”, and criticised the decision not to publish its findings.
She also pointed to a report by the Disability Benefits Consortium that highlighted how the government had given eight different reasons for its decision to remove the mobility component.
Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, again insisted that the proposal to remove the mobility component had been about “reducing overlaps in provision” and was “not about reducing the mobility of care home residents”.
When asked by shadow work and pensions minister Stephen Timms why the measure was still in the bill if the government did not intend to remove the mobility component, Miller said: “What I am saying very clearly is that the way we decide to support individuals in care homes will be looked at alongside the support for other recipients of DLA.
“We will not remove mobility support from people if additional support is not in place.”
But Curran said there was still confusion around the clause in the bill, and added: “Will some people in residential homes lose their benefit, or will all people in residential homes lose their benefit? Will some lose it as a result of the review? Will some lose it as a result of overlap?”
Labour’s amendment that would have removed the proposed cut from the bill was defeated by just two votes, 12 to 10, although the two Liberal Democrat committee members – Jenny Willott and Ian Swales – were not present for the vote.
A Liberal Democrat spokesman said later that they had missed the vote “purely by chance”, because Willott was “a relatively new mum and had to leave to feed her son” while Swales had to attend a party meeting under a “three-line whip”.
12 May 2011