Today sees the release of a report on the welfare reform bill put together under the leadership of Sue Marsh and Kaliya Franklin and with support from sick and disabled people. A freedom of information request was used to obtain some five hundred responses made to the government consultation on Disability Living Allowance reform.
The vast majority of responses were against nearly all of the changes. While most people accept that some reform of Disability Living Allowance is necessary, there is widespread agreement that Personal Independence Payments are not it. Of the five hundred responses to the consultation, 74% were against the proposals for PIP, and 19% had reservations. Of particular note is that Boris Johnson submitted a response to the consultation, in which he slammed the proposed reforms and even questioned the motivation of the government.
“While some reform may be necessary and some proposals are positive in terms of simplifying the benefit and reducing bureaucracy, the Mayor is concerned that if the focus of this reform is solely efficiency driven government, may fail to ensure that the needs of disabled people are adequately met and many will suffer additional hardship and isolation.”- Boris Johnson
None of this matters though, because not only was the consultation two weeks shorter than is usual, but it also took place over the Christmas break, eating into the time even more. And the bill was written and presented to parliament two days before this shorter consultation ended. Assessing the results of a consultation ought to take some time, and writing a bill based on the results would take even longer, so it is clear that this bill was written to fit Conservative party policy regardless of any evidence that the consultation presented.
This is not the only problem with the behaviour of the government. They have consistently claimed that there has been a 30% rise in claims for DLA, but it is actually 13%. The government has even admitted that this figure is “distorted” but continues to claim 30% which is the figure that MPs and peers have been told and have used in Parliamentary debates. The government has failed to note that much of the 13% rise in claims for DLA is due to an increase in diagnosis of mental health problems and learning disabilities. This reflects improved health care rather than nefarious claims for DLA.
It is important to note that DLA is not an out of work benefit. DLA is paid to cover some of the extra costs incurred when living with an illness or disability, and is paid regardless of income. By covering those costs DLA allows independence and freedom to people which they would not otherwise have, and if taken from them would cause them to fall back on other health care and welfare services instead. Many people are able to work only because DLA provides them with the ability to travel or make expensive adaptions, and without DLA will be forced to claim other benefits instead. As such DLA actually saves money by preventing the need for much greater expenditure elsewhere.
It is clear that the proposed 20% cut to the budget for PIP over that of DLA is an idealogical one which is not supported by evidence but has been pushed by the government regardless of the facts. PIP would also introduce frequent testing, much like the work capability assessment used for Employment and Support Allowance. This testing is pointless in a great many cases where disability is permanent and may be degenerative, which given how hard it is to get DLA, is a lot of them. It seems that the purpose of introducing such tests is to pander to ignorant tabloid media and general public rather than common sense. In April last year Tory councillor Ollie Flitcroft, a wheelchair user, resigned in protest at these changes.
So please, help us put a stop to the welfare reform bill in its current form. Spread this report wherever you can. Post it to Facebook and Google Plus. Tweet it with the hashtag
#spartacusreport. Send a copy to any politician that you can find, and to your local newspaper and TV station. Contact a peer in the House of Lords and tell them why they must oppose the Welfare Reform Bill, and tell your MP too. If there is enough of an uproar then maybe there is a chance that this bill can be halted.
Read the report in full: Responsible Reform – A Report on the proposed changes to Disability Living Allowance [Skydrive document]
Read about the problems: What’s Wrong with Personal Independence Payments? [WtB]
Disabled people listened to on welfare plans? It’s a goverernment sham [Sue Marsh writes in The Guardian]