Saturday, 11 December 2010

Step 1 of the Write-in Campaign to Stop DLA Reform Revisited - Write to Maria Miller MP

Some constructive criticism has led me to revisit the letter to Maria Miller MP, producing a simpler template letter as a distilled version of the earlier one. The big letter is still online -and you are all welcome to use it - but below is a simple version for you to edit and post and e-mail. Remember to cc: your MP:

Maria Miller MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Disabled People
Department for Work and Pensions
1st Floor
Caxton House
Tothill Street

Dear Maria Miller,

Re: Disability Living Allowance reform

I am writing to urge you, as Minister for Disabled People, to recall the Public Consultation on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) reform, and to cease work on reform of this benefit, due to serious flaws in the consultation paper. As such, the consultation questions are deeply skewed and any answers will be likely to support wholesale reform. This is both unfair and unwise, and will cause hardship for many disabled people.

Your case for reform has been criticized, and then completely demolished, by the various disability rights groups fighting reform. They accuse the DWP of building their argument without sufficient evidence, and I am inclined to agree. The claims that DLA can act as a barrier to work, in particular, are robustly questioned. Questions are also raised concerning the accuracy of the representation of supporting data.

Most devastating to your case for reform is the critique of proposed amendments, leading one to ask whether augmenting DLA might not be a better, cheaper way of improving employment opportunities, rather than launching an entirely new benefit. It would seem that the costs of such rebranding are only justified when savings are made by cutting the DLA caseload by 20%. This figure is, in and of itself, questionable – how is it possible to know that this many people can be removed?

The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) appears to be a case of cuts dressed as positive reform. Disability rights groups and charities have uniformly condemned the proposals, warning of dire consequences. The list of those affected includes: people who are mobile with aids; people with disabilities so severe that they are unable to be very active; care home residents; those who receive local authority care packages. Most other disabled people will suffer through needless reassessments upon the introduction of PIP, and re-testing every few years even when a condition cannot be treated.

There is a strong feeling amongst people with disabilities that the Coalition Government have declared war on us, with a continual ratcheting of pressure on us since the Emergency Budget in June 2010. Announcements on Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, and Disability Living Allowance have made us feel that the Government is scapegoating us and removing the support on which we depend. Iain Duncan-Smith’s comments to The Sun newspaper [01/12/2010) suggesting that Incapacity Benefit claimants were partly to blame for a large fiscal deficit caused by a recession, a bail-out of the banks and quantitative easing. The only way that you can convince people with disabilities that you are not hostile towards us is to halt the current process DLA Reform. Whilst there may be ways to improve DLA, they do not involve replacing it with a new benefit, and neither do they involve removing anyone from the claimant caseload.

I am sending a copy of this by post, and expect your prompt personal reply with distinct reference to each and every point I have made. I am forwarding copies to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. I am also forwarding this letter to [your MP] who represents my constituency. I am sure my MP will read it with great interest, and I know that he will wish to raise a number of searching Parliamentary questions regarding the conduct of DWP during the compilation of the DLA reform consultation paper. I await your reply.

Yours sincerely,

[your name]

cc: [your MP]

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