Ever since the Welfare Reform Bill was announced in February people have been concerned that those living in residential care will lose their independence if, as the government plans, the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) is abolished. But now there is renewed hope that this proposal may not make it into law.
Disability charities, Mencap and Leonard Cheshire Disability, have asked cross-bench peer Lord Low of Dalston CBE to chair a review into how the personal mobility needs of people living in state-funded residential care are met.
Lord Low's brief includes investigating not only how needs are met, but how service responses are funded and what responsibilities care home providers and local authorities have in relation to the mobility needs of residents. This review is welcome.
The move to cut mobility payments to people in residential care seemed motivated only by the drive to cut the benefits bill. The government is on record as saying it wants to cut 20% from the DLA bill - a seemingly arbitrary figure, as percentage cuts haven't been placed on other benefits. People with disabilities - learning or physical - have rightly been up in arms about this.
For many - especially those with jobs or who go to college - the mobility payment is a lifeline to the outside world; without it they would be housebound and/or reliant on others or on the transport provided by their residential care home.
To critics, this proposed cut is cruel and arbitrary, picking on the most vulnerable in society who, lest we forget, have been thoroughly assessed as requiring the payment in order to pay for the things that they need to live their daily lives.
DLA is not easy to get and the level of fraud is tiny. People who receive the mobility component have genuine - and in many cases life-long - need and are not "stuck" on the benefit.
With the government having stated its aim of promoting independence and enabling people with disabilities to live the lives they choose, axing a benefit that enables them to do that seems counter-intuitive at best. At worst, it suggests that the government is only paying lip service to the disability agenda.
Hopefully this review will back up the wealth of anecdotal evidence on the adverse impact this cut would have on people's lives. This in turn would put more pressure on the government to abandon this part of the plan. Whether the government will listen, only time will tell. But the government has backed down on other issues when faced with a public backlash - so a U-turn could be forthcoming, if there is enough opposition to the proposal.
The consultation on the review is open until midnight on 10 October. For more information, including how to participate, click here.