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Confusion over disability cuts: risks greater social exclusion, poverty & isolation

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Confusion over Disability Cuts:

Denying disabled people support

risks greater social exclusion,

poverty and isolation

 

Prime ministers questions during week commencing 23 March 2011 revealed a worrying misunderstanding at the highest level over the government agenda for disability benefit cuts. David Cameron apparently believes that plans for disability living allowance (DLA) cuts will not leave disabled people lacking mobility support.

DLA was designed by Margaret Thatcher's government to help disabled people with the higher costs of living, especially those with needs that went unmet by council services or the NHS.

DLA is paid to disabled people with care or mobility support needs.

The coalition has announced two significant changes to DLA: -

- an end to DLA mobility support for disabled people living in care homes;

- and - a 20% cut in resources (over £2 billion by 2015/16)

The chancellor, George Osborne announced in the June 2010 budget that DLA mobility support for disabled people living in care homes would be cut. The government initially suggested the end of this support would affect 50,000 disabled people and mean a £135 million saving for DWP. By the October spending review, figures had jumped by 60% to 80,000 disabled people affected with a revised saving of £160 million. The error demonstrates the poor analysis of the initial plans but the government also seems to be lacking clarity of purpose on the issue - including at PMQs.

The cut has been raised several times at PMQs and causes concern across the political spectrum.

The Conservative manifesto in 2010 stated that DLA would be "protected", which may be problematic for some government backbenchers.

Concerns focus on the significantly disadvantaged disabled people affected and what the impact could mean.

Denying disabled people support risks greater social exclusion, poverty.

The cut may not be cost-neutral either: there are costs implied to the Treasury through disabled people who currently use support to attend medical appointments being unable to do so; this might result in avoidable (and NHS resource-intensive) hospitalisation for example.

The initial government plan was to end support from October 2012. This has been delayed to March 2013 and is now connected to broader DLA cuts to be implemented from the same date.

The prime minister announced last week however, that a review of the current situation is being undertaken.

Many disability organisations are concerned that the nature of the review is unconfirmed: there are no terms of reference available and no start or completion date. It is unclear how they can be involved in the review or to help the government produce the most effective outcome for disabled people.

What is clear however, is that part 4, clause 83 of the welfare reform bill will end access to DLA support for disabled people living in care homes from March 2013. This clause will automatically disqualify disabled care home residents from accessing the 'personal independence payment' (PIP).

PIP is being introduced to replace DLA for all working age disabled people from March 2013 and will end the help 643,000 disabled people currently receive.

It appears MPs will be voting on clause 83 and ending support before any review is completed; possibly before the terms of the review are even announced.

This is deeply unfortunate and leaves the government exposed to accusations of confusion, unfairness and irresponsibility. More disturbingly, it leaves disabled people and their families deeply anxious about what the future may hold.

By Neil Coyle, Director of Policy at Disability Alliance

http://www.disabilityalliance.org/

DisabilityAllianceLogo

Please find original link here: -

 http://uk.news.yahoo.com/blogs/talking_politics/confusion-reigns-over-disability-cuts-p182008.html

 

Meanwhile on Thursday 7 April 2011,

ITV News produced a report on: -

Disabled hit by cuts

 

"Politicians and economists may argue the toss over the need for the cuts to avoid a Portuguese style melt-down.

But for those at the receiving end, there's no argument about the impact - not least on some of the most vulnerable in society - the disabled.

ITV News has obtained a new study, to be published on Friday 8 April 2011, which shows that:

80% of councils in England will no longer support those with "moderate" needs.

50% of authorities have removed upper limits to the weekly charges they can take for disabled home care - and where they remain they've been increased by up to 98%.

Individual councils are also raising hourly charges - by as much as 78%.

In the latest in our series "Life under the Cuts", our consumer editor Chris Choi reports on how disabled people are paying the price of the budget deficit."

ITV News Logo

Please find video link here: -

http://www.itv.com/news/disabled-hit-by-cuts24607/

Please find a written transcript of the news item below: -

ITV News Transcript: Disabled Hit By The Cuts: 7 April 2011

 Update:

Changes to Disability Living Allowance

Government ploughs on regardless

with cuts to Disability Support

It has been 8 months since the government announced a 20% cut to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) expenditure and almost 2 months since the formal consultation on government plans ended.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) describe the level of responses as:

"One of the biggest ever consultations…with more than 5500 responses from disabled people and disability organisations.”

Disability charities have witnessed massive levels of concern over the future. Over 1,750 people contacted Disability Alliance alone to express fears over the impact of the cuts.

After such a significant level of interest and concern, DWP responded to the consultation on 5 April 2011 announcing absolutely no change to plans.

Despite the high level of responses and fears, the government is ploughing ahead with a £2.17 billion reduction in support and even remains committed to axing mobility support for almost 80,000 disabled people living in care homes.

This is despite the following exchange at PMQs on March 23rd 2011:

Ed Miliband: "Will the Prime Minister explain why he proposes to remove the mobility component of disability living allowance from 80,000 care home residents?”

David Cameron: "The short answer is that we are not.”

Clause 83 of the welfare reform bill will remove eligibility for the DLA replacement (Personal Independence Payment) benefit from care home residents from March 2013. If you live in a care home you will not qualify for support and DWP have confirmed that the government has no plans to amend or remove the clause.

The government’s decision to continue on a path which will deny help to thousands of disabled people and leave families in poverty is a bitter blow. It is hugely disappointing for the many disabled people and their families who have raised concerns in a vain attempt to ensure their voices were heard.

But the government’s response to the formal consultation also fails to answer queries concerning the potential knock-on costs to other public services of cutting direct help. A loss of direct support may reduce ability to manage health conditions and could require avoidable (and expensive) hospitalisation for example. Families also report potentially seeking council funded residential care home placements for disabled relatives if current DLA support to live in the family home is lost. Councils may not have resources to help under broader government cuts of course.

DWP also remains unwilling to publicly estimate how many disabled people might lose help as a result of the plans, which include abolishing low rate care payments. Removing all support from the 643,000 people receiving low rate care payments (including associated mobility awards) would cut £1.4bn and provide two thirds of the government target.

8 months of "engagement” with government has produced nil change in plans bar a 6 month delay for cutting care home mobility support originally set for October 2012. A consortium of organisations and individuals are now delivering a direct action "disability lobby” and march on Westminster on 11 May 2011 in one further attempt to ensure parliamentarians and government understand the potential impact of the cuts.

Original article found at: -

http://www.leftfootforward.org/2011/04/government-cuts-to-disability-support/

 

Neil Coyle is Director of Policy for Disability Alliance and a Labour Councillor in Southwark; he writes here in a personal capacity

 http://www.disabilityalliance.org/

 

Visit http://www.thehardesthit.wordpress.com/ for further information

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