When the government proposed to change the benefit system, from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment, a consultation period was begun.
The government itself has a code of practice for consultations, that it has quite clearly broken. It was two weeks shorter than recommended and took place over the Christmas holidays of 2010/2011. It was also not completed by the time the Welfare Bill was presented to Parliament, so it is clear that it was not taken fully into account.
This was not simply asking a bunch of people, this was a consultation based on the answers from 523 groups – local authorities, national charities, legal groups, user led organisations, health care professionals and businesses.
The government claims that the proposed changes to DLA to PIP has the support of a wide range of the public, and that they have consulted disability campaigners and charities.
It is a bit reminiscent of the old, “I did not inhale” excuse.
We consulted, but we did not listen.
Since the government was not willing to use the responses gathered during the consultation period, a group of campaigners decided to do so. They raised the funding through donations and requested the documents needed through the Freedom of Information Act.
What a surprise it was for them to read the statement from London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson:
The Mayor would call for the Government to retain the (current) three-month qualifying period, as the increase to six months will mean that people with fluctuating conditions have increased difficulty meeting the qualifying period.People with fluctuating conditions face the same barriers that all disabled face in relation to higher costs of living, and DLA is essential to maintain a decent quality of life.The Government proposes imposing penalties if disabled people do not inform the Government of changes in their circumstances.‘However, the overall fraud rate for DLA is less than 0.5 per cent. For those with fluctuating conditions, asking them to report every change to their condition would prove very stressful.
Further, the campaigners found that the other respondents were almost unanimous in their response to some points, and that
- 74% of respondents were against the proposals but open to discussion
- 19% had mixed views, agreeing with parts of the proposal
- Only 7% supported them fully.
Several points were raised by many respondents, including that the government’s motivation in proposing these reforms were perceived to be a saving 20% of disability benefits. When the overall fraud rate of DLA being estimated at 0,5%, surely it is clear that this will cut benefits from those who need it.
So why was the bill allowed to go ahead, with the government asserting that the proposals were supported by disabled groups?
Please read the Spartacus Report and pass it on to your friends and family (although I expect they will read about it in the newspapers).
I would like to point out several issues that are often misunderstood by the general public.
1. DLA is an in work benefit. It aims to assist the disabled person in his or her daily life and often provides the means for them to be able to work
2. DLA is a highly efficient benefit, in that it saves the tax payer money. For every disabled person who is able to work because of the support, the country “earn” taxes.
3. DLA is not given out easily. It is a long and difficult process, and even someone as ill as Sue Marsh can fail to be awarded DLA
4. DLA does not automatically mean that the recipient gets a “free car”. Those on DLA who are awarded the higher mobility component of DLA. No matter what the Daily Mail tells you.
5. DLA recipients “pay” for their car using their benefit payments. So a person who has the highest possible award would pay half their DLA benefit toward a leased car. Only 30% of those eligible for a car take one.
If the government were more honest, both about the recipients of benefits not being lazy scroungers, and the response of those who replied to the consultation, I very much doubt that they would have been able to bring the Welfare Bill as far as they have.
And where the hell is our opposition party in all of this?
Why is it left to campaigners who struggle with their own disabilities and have to raise money on social networking websites to fund and produce this report?