A new report has been released today that shows that the government has been hiding the full scale of the opposition to the reforms of Disability Living Allowance. I’m not surprised. There are an awful lot of myths about DLA that make it easier to persuade people that it should be replaced, but anyone who has claimed the benefit or has helped someone who has, knows what a lifeline it can be.
Disability Living Allowance, or DLA, is paid to anyone who has significant care or mobility needs. Care is split into three levels, and mobility into two, and a person can be receiving either care or mobility, or both, but only one rate of each.
For the care component, the lowest rate is only paid to people who have significant care needs at various points in the day – for example they may be unable to cook their own meals or deal with medication.
The middle rate is for people who have frequent and significant care needs, or need supervision either during the day or at night – they may need help going to the toilet, or could be a danger to themselves or others if left alone for more than short periods.
The high rate is for people who have significant care needs throughout the day and night – they could be unable to be left alone at all, or completely unable to perform even basic personal care without a lot of help.
The mobility component is paid to people who have significant problems with mobility and getting out of the house. The lower rate is for people who regularly need help or experience severe discomfort or pain.
The higher level is for people who are completely unable to move around or be outdoors without assistance and/or long term risk to their health. They may need a specially adapted car or specially made equipment to get around, and they have the option of using a portion of their benefit to pay into a car scheme called Motability so they can use an adapted car.
- DLA is not an out of work benefit. In fact, receiving DLA can be the thing that allows someone to work, as it is there to cover the costs of disability, which could include the equipment and support that someone needs to get a job.
- DLA is not means tested – it acknowledges that anyone can be disabled, and that it is not fair for them to have to deal with extra costs because of it (of course, it doesn’t cover all the costs of disability, but it is an enormous help to many disabled people)
- DLA is not for short term illness – it is for long lasting disability and/or life limiting conditions. We are talking about people with missing limbs, downs syndrome, cancer. People who need wheelchairs to get around. Children who will never be able to live independently and who have the care needs of a toddler when they are school age. People who have to deal with hallucinations, fits or blackouts.
- DLA is not easily defrauded. Current government estimates put the fraud level at around 0.5% – around 1 in 200 claimants get DLA when they shouldn’t, or a higher level than they are entitled to. This is much higher than the amount of people who don’t claim when they should, or who are entitled but have given up when faced with appealing.
- The criteria and claiming process for DLA is so strict that receiving it can mean you are eligible for other benefits and adjustments. Different levels of DLA and circumstances can make someone be eligible for an extra part of working tax credit, a bus pass, carer’s allowance for a carer, help with the cost of an adapted car, disability railcard, a cinema discount card and so on. All of these things are designed not to replace income but to try to minimise the cost of disability – they go some way to cover the costs that non disabled people just don’t have.