The government failed to tell its own expert disability department about its plans to cut a key mobility-based disability benefit until just hours before the measure was announced, a disabled peer has revealed.
Baroness [Jane] Campbell told fellow peers that the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) was given just a few hours’ notice of Treasury plans to remove the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) from most disabled people in residential care.
The chancellor, George Osborne, announced in last month’s spending review that, from 2012-13, only those disabled people who fund their own residential care would be able to claim the benefit.
Baroness Campbell told a Lords debate on the impact of the spending review that the move would have “the most disproportionately devastating consequences” on the lives of 58,000 disabled young people and working-age adults.
She said it conflicted with government policies to promote personalisation and independent living and encourage disabled people into work, and would breach the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
She said: “Residential care homes are not intended to be prisons. We all enjoy activities outside our homes. It should be no different for those living in residential care homes.”
She told peers about a disabled couple in residential care who, without their DLA mobility component, “will no longer be able to visit the doctor, dentist, bank, church, library or shops, let alone relatives and friends”.
She said the DLA cut would make “Britain’s most severely disabled people the group who lose most” from the spending review, while it “literally removes their mobility” and “makes neither moral nor financial sense”.
And she said she was “deeply concerned” that the Treasury failed to carry out an impact assessment on the spending cut or discuss it in advance with the ODI or other disability experts.
Lord Sassoon, commercial secretary to the Treasury, told Baroness Campbell that he would “note carefully” her concerns, and that her speech, and others, illustrate “just how difficult it is to reshape the welfare system in the radical way that we intend at a time of considerable retrenchment in the public finances”.
Another disabled peer, Lord [Colin] Low, criticised the government’s decision to impose a “completely arbitrary” one-year time limit on disabled people who claim the contributory version of employment and support allowance (ESA).
He said there were “simply not the jobs to enable everyone on ESA to get a job within 12 months”.
Lord Low said the measure – which will affect those in the “work-related activity group” – was “sadistically harsh”, comes at “completely the wrong time”, and was “self-defeating” because it would “completely undermine” the government’s efforts to support disabled people into work.
He said the “damaging and unjust consequences” of time-limiting ESA were “just one of many reasons” why the government should “seriously rethink” its spending review.
The Department for Work and Pensions refused to comment when asked for its reaction to the Treasury’s failure to carry out an impact assessment or discuss the DLA cut in advance with the ODI.
2 November 2010