Disabled people have reacted furiously to the minister for disabled people after she took part in an online question and answer session about the government’s disability living allowance (DLA) reforms.
Maria Miller answered just seven of scores of questions posted by visitors to the Guardian’s website.
Many were angry that she avoided answering the tougher questions, and instead repeated familiar government lines about its reforms.
Miller, who revealed that she lives with her disabled mother, said the DLA system had no “inbuilt system of review” and had an “unwieldy” assessment process, and needed updating to make it “more transparent, consistent and fair”.
Many of those taking part raised concerns about plans to remove the mobility component of DLA from most disabled people in residential care.
Miller again claimed it would remove the “overlap” between the mobility component and the obligations of local authorities and care homes to provide transport for residents.
Some questioned the coalition’s apparent willingness to fuel “smears” about disabled people and disability benefits that have appeared in the media.
Miller failed to criticise the media, instead claiming that “cases of fraud bring the benefit system into disrepute and this is bad for everyone”, which was why people with “legitimate claims need a benefit system that has robust assessment”.
The disabled activist Rhydian Fon James told her: “The reasons given for DLA reform are not robust, with little evidence to support the case for reform and, importantly, no independent academic research.”
Miller said the government’s research was “generally” commissioned by the DWP from “external academic and independent researchers and this is what was used as evidence in the consultation”.
One disabled war pensioner said afterwards that Miller had failed to answer “a single serious question”, while others described her efforts as “a joke” and “a travesty”.
Another described the exercise as “an absolute waste of time” and added: “I hope you can see just how frightened people are at the thought that, by a tick in the wrong box… our safety nets will fall and we will be left to suffer with absolutely no compassion by our government.”
Meanwhile, 60 disabled campaigners have lobbied MPs about the mobility component plans.
They said it would have “a devastating impact on 80,000 disabled people who rely on the allowance to maintain their independence by covering the costs of getting around”.
The House of Commons event was organised by a coalition of disability charities, led by Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mencap and Sense.
10 February 2011