Liberal Democrat conference: Disabled members could quit party over DLA


Disabled Liberal Democrats are threatening to quit the party over the huge cuts to spending on disability living allowance (DLA) announced by the coalition government.

The chancellor announced in his emergency budget in June that he would cut spending on DLA by 20 per cent by 2016.

Party member Shana Witcomb said she was “really worried” about the announcement, and the government’s plans for a new DLA assessment.

Although she said she was not worried that she would lose her own DLA entitlement, she said: “I am reserving judgement. I will be very, very angry if I see the people I care about get iller and iller as a direct result of any cuts that are made.”

Asked whether she would leave the party if that happened, she said: “Absolutely.”

Witcomb, who has ms, said: “I am very, very concerned that the criteria is going to favour physical disability and physical impairment and that they are not going to take on board all of those things like fatigue, fluctuating visual problems and use of your hands.”

She added: “I haven’t heard enough this conference about what they are doing to support those most in need.”

Gemma Roulston, membership secretary of the Liberal Democrat Disability Association, but speaking as an individual party member, said she did not believe that Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg or chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander understood DLA.

She added: “Nick doesn’t know what he is talking about.”

She said there was a “very great concern” from fellow disabled members about the planned cuts to DLA.

She would lose £1,000 a month if she lost DLA for herself and her two disabled children and her carer’s allowance. She added: “That money helps people live but it also means they have got some independence.”

Roulston said that cutting DLA would simply increase the pressure on family carers and local authorities.

She said: “If this goes through [if she lost her DLA]I cannot be a member of a party that is going to affect me in such a massive way. I don’t know how I could be a member of a party that doesn’t really care for disabled people.”

Another disabled delegate, Fred Dunford, said he was not on the breadline himself, but was concerned that the DLA cuts “would cause severe problems for a lot of people” and could end up costing the government more money.

He added: “I am angry on other people’s behalf.”

But Richard Whelan, a fellow disabled party member, said: “I think people who need DLA will still get DLA.”

He said he would reserve judgement until he saw how the government was planning to cut DLA spending.

He added: “Let’s just see in the spending review. It’s better to wait.”

21 September 2010

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