We, the undersigned, urge the 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.
The 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. 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. For example, the claim is made that DLA claims have risen by 30% in eight years - without accounting for population growth of 5% in this period, a pronounced demographic shift, and increased awareness of DLA.
Most devastating to the 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. 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.