24 Nov 2011

Impact of disability benefit cuts

View of Ebley Mill from Randwick
Reductions in local government budgets will leave many rural residents disadvantaged, says a report by the Rural Services Network, which represents 93 rural councils and a host of other public rural service providers. The full document can be downloaded by clicking here while a brief report can be found here. However in this blog I wanted to highlight the planned cuts to Disability Benefits - this is an issue I've covered many times on this blog - and it is clear many disabled people face the double whammy of cuts to their benefits but also rural services. Click on read more for info taken from campaign material circulated locally.

I must also mention Health Minister Simon Burns who compared 38 degrees supporters to zombies!! I have to say that was pretty shocking - see video clip and petition here.

Government Proposals

-    To make spending cuts of over £2 billion by 2015
-    To replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) by 2013
-    To stop payment of the lower rate care DLA altogether
-    To assess people more often, people to only have indefinite awards in ‘exceptional circumstances’
-    To end payment of mobility component DLA to those in state-funded residential homes (put on hold for the moment).
-    For people to meet a longer qualifying period to receive the payment
-    To target benefits to those with the greatest need

Some of the Problems With These

-    Massive cuts will put disabled people into further poverty and social exclusion. Their rights and equality are protected under European Law, but the government seem unconcerned about this
-    What are ‘exceptional circumstances’?
-    Longer qualifying periods and reassessments  will cause problems for those with fluctuating health, will have to reapply often
-    People in residential homes rely on mobility component for personal independence, seeing friends and family.
-    Position of carers has been left extremely vague at the moment – government is unable as yet to confirm how DLA reform will affect carer’s allowance, “when objective assessment has been developed and tested, decisions can be made on rates to be used”. PIP will act as a condition of entitlement for Carer’s Allowance.
-    ‘Tick box’ electronic assessment in the future – concerns that it will be faceless and dehumanising, will not understand cases as a whole.
-    Government have not factored in potential extra cost for local authorities and the NHS
-    Govt. has given credence to perception of people defrauding benefits, mentioned in briefing notes: “destroys credibility of benefit when cases of fraud are reported in the media”. This does not acknowledge millions (billions?) in unclaimed benefits.
-    Reforms are being rushed through without proper consultation or impact studies


-    Many obstacles to disabled people getting organised and campaigning, but anger and fear about the Welfare Reform Bill have brought disabled groups together that previously didn’t always agree. Very hard for carers to organise or even be aware of what is happening.
-    The Low Review into ending the mobility component for people in residential homes has reported (Oct 2011) and found no evidence that would justify withdrawing the benefit. It has recommended that people in residential homes should keep the level of benefits they have as it aids their independence
-    Campaign against Atos Healthcare and its sponsorship of the Olympics and Paralympics.  (Boris Johnson was heckled by disabled campaigners recently. In response to complaints that disabled people on benefits could not afford to attend the Olympics – Johnson replied that “90 per cent of tickets are under £100”)! Atos uses computer software, the ‘Logic Integrated Medical Assessment’ program (LIMA) to assess people. Atos provide medical advice to DWP. They conduct assessments of people claiming benefits incl. ESA, Incapacity Benefit, DLA and Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit. From their website: “Atos worked with Royal Mail Group and cut sickness absence, saved £227 million in wages and benefit costs”. They also give medical advice to pension funds incl. Royal Mail, NHS Pension Admin Service, Teachers Pension Fund and BPUK – assess applications for early retirement due to ill health. Also run pre-employment health screening.
-    Disability Alliance are preparing to make a legal challenge to the reforms, their advisors, Unity Law, believe there is a very credible case. Disabled people are protected by UK (Equality Act) and European Law. DWP has a duty to promote disabled people’s equality of opportunity. PIP will not provide an equivalent level of support for 625,000 people currently receiving low rate care DLA payments. Over 5,500 people and organisations have raised concerns and responded to consultation since June 2010, but these have gone unanswered. You can read the legal letter to the DWP here: www.disabilityalliance.org/dlachallenge.pdf
-    The Hardest Hit http://thehardesthit.wordpress.com is
Organising campaigns: letter writing, lobbying, protests etc

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