Sunday, 13 March 2011
Where Do We Go From Here?
During yesterday's session of their spring conference, the Liberal Democrats passed a motion to keep the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance for those in residential care. The Government's proposal of stopping payment of the mobility component to those in residential care has been one of the most visible issues of DLA reform, and we should be glad that the Lib Dems will now oppose it and we can only hope to keep the pressure and get them to support other amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill that will undo more of the 'anti-disability' proposals.
This is what The Broken of Britain will be doing in the next few weeks - consolidating the real gains made during the Left Out In The Cold. Most obviously, there is the issue of the Labour party. Having shown their loyalty to Ed Miliband in the Second Reading, many Labour MPs are keen to amend the Bill on many fronts, and not least on the issue of disability. There is obviously some real room for discussion here.
The Liberal Democrats have also shown, by accepting the motion above, that they are open to discussion on this issue. Until the Coalition showed up the Lib Dems had a reasonably good disability policy and a number of disabled supporters.
Finally we come to the Conservatives. The obvious division is between their frontbench members and the 1922 Committee of backbenchers. A good number of backbenchers may be sympathetic to arguments, and could be persuaded to accept some, if not all, of our suggested amendments.
And all of this means that we need to keep pushing the same arguments we've been making since last December, indeed since the issue of DLA reform was first raised by George Osborne in June. The argument must be made far and wide - and especially in the places where we can talk to a largely Conservative audience. We must tell them that:
1) the Government has already stated the intention of a 20% cut even though fraud is estimated at 0.5% - this equates to 620,000 genuinely disabled people thrown off the benefit.
2) the Government lacks evidence for their case for reform - only two pieces of DWP research support limited reform. There is certainly no evidence to support Maria Miller's claim that DLA "is almost a case study in how not to run a benefit."
3) the way the reforms are designed could mean a million or more losing out - either being reclassified or disallowed from claiming
More generally,an argument that has not been made anywhere is that this Government's aims for DLA are not only unclear, but are actually contradictory. Individualization of service and standardization of service are both reasons offered by DWP, even though they are incompatible aims. You can't ensure that payment is personalized according to each individual's need if you also want to standardize payments and make sure that everybody gets the same. There is no way to set up an objective, standardized test which treats all claimants the same if you also want the test to be responsive to each individual's needs.
Individualization and standardization are mutually exclusive, and pretending otherwise is ludicrous, This is the message we must keep hammering home, anywhere and to anyone. If you have any ideas about how to get this message into the mainstream, please e-mail me with your suggestions at: firstname.lastname@example.org