Friday, 11 February 2011

Cuts to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) - Outrageous

It is well known that Government and political parties like to “hide away” bad news in the hope that little will find its way into the wider spectrum of reporting. So it was therefore not surprising that the Coalition Government announced proposed changes to the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in a similar fashion.

Hidden away on page 69 of the comprehensive spending review in October 2010 was the announcement that the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) would be removed from people living in residential care. During his explanation to Parliament, George Osborne omitted to explain this benefit reduction and it has slipped under the radar of most of the media who have been far more interested in the other spending cuts announced. Therefore, in our world of “who shouts loudest is likely to be heard”, it remains a much hidden element of the public spending cuts. For those unconnected with disabled people, it will seem irrelevant and unimportant but for those disabled people it will impact on, it will have drastic affects. It could fundamentally revert our care system back to the dark ages of institionalisation. Scaremongering – I think not.

The DLA mobility component allows disabled people in residential homes to meet some of the extra costs incurred when they travel – be it to see family, friends or just a trip to the theatre. The government proposal to cut this element for those who are living in residential care will affect in the region of 60,000 to 80,000 disabled people taking away some of their independence. It is therefore hard to believe that during the election process both David Cameron and George Osborne were keen to assure the public that the most vulnerable people in our society would not be affected by potential benefit cuts.

The government has stated that this allowance will be removed in October 2012. Their explanation is simply that they believe that it is a duplication of funds already allocated by local authorities to fund transport needs. Their shortsightedness does not reflect the fact that funding to local authorities is also being cut and therefore funds are already being stripped to the bare minimum.

Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of Scope, has called the decision "callous" and has questioned its fairness. "Disabled people and their families do not have 'broad shoulders', so why are they bearing the brunt of these cuts?" he asked.

In a statement, the Department for Work and Pensions said: "Currently some people in residential care receive support for their mobility needs through disability living allowance and mobility support funded by their local authority. We want to remove that duplication and make sure that the system is fair. These changes won't come into effect until October 2012 and we will continue to work with disabled people and organisations to ensure benefits meet the needs of disabled people. The government expects that the cut will save £135m a year by 2014-15."

In the scheme of things, this saving to the Government is a small drip from a tap but the affects are like a tidal wave. For those affected, this removal will reduce their independence and quality of life – a significant change for those already marginalised by society as a whole.

I, like many other disabled people and disability charities, can only urge the Government to rethink this proposal. This is definitely a cut too far for many and I suspect will remain under the radar for many people until it is too late. Now is the time for the shout of disabled people to be heard above the crowd.