Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Time for a rethink on DLA reform

Ever since the Government unveiled its plans to reformdisability living allowance (DLA) back in 2010, it has facedprotests from all quarters, including service users and theirfamilies. But a new report has revealed just how unpopular theproposed changes are – it seems almost nobody wants them. Surely,then, it is time for the Government to take notice and rethink itsplans? The report, ‘Responsible Reform’ – written and funded bypeople with disabilities – sifted through hundreds of responses tothe Government’s own consultation, obtained under Freedom ofInformation requests, and found that 74% of respondents wereagainst the replacement of DLA with the personal independentpayment (PIP). Only 7% were fully in favour. Researchers also foundalmost complete opposition to other proposed reforms; 98% ofrespondents objected to the qualifying period for the benefit beingraised from 3 to 6 months and 99% objected to DLA no longer beingused as a qualification for other benefits. It seems prettyconclusive: PIP is not wanted. So, if this Government is, as itclaims to be, listening to the public, then it must surely haltthese reforms and reconsider its options. The concerns raised mustbe listened to and addressed before any Bill is passed. Oppositionto change is not uncommon, but when nearly 100% of responses to aconsultation clearly say no, that cannot be ignored. Or can it? Sofar, there is no indication of a change of tack. Since thepublication of the report, the Government has maintained itsexisting line on the issue. The Department for Work and Pensions'(DWP) Twitter feed (@dwppressoffice) repeated the government’s mainreasons for replacing DLA with PIP – the vast majority of claimantsget it for life without systematic checks to see if their conditionhas changed, resulting in millions of pounds worth of overpayments.PIP will bring in face-to-face assessments to ensure it goes tothose who need it most etc etc. Minister for disabled people, MariaMiller, interviewed on Victoria Derbyshire’s show on Radio 5Live onMonday, repeated those arguments. The interview, along with that ofone of the report’s authors, Sue Marsh, can be listened to here. Before going further I should, ofcourse, note that ‘Responsible Reform’ – and others – havechallenged the validity of the DWP’s assertions. However, in theRadio 5Live interview, Miller did make one comment that perhapsgives some comfort to people with learning disabilities: “Thechange in the way we deal with mobility under PIP will mean thatpeople, particularly with learning difficulties, who at the momentget very little recognition at the higher levels of DLA, will getthat greater recognition under PIP in the future.” However, Millerdid not go into further detail on this point. More generally theGovernment has offered a few concessions on disability benefitreform – most notably abandoning its plans to axe payments of themobility component of DLA to those living in residential care – butthe majority of its planned reforms remain steadfastly in place.Indeed, judging by the way the Government put its plans toParliament, before the consultation had closed, meaning thatmembers did not get to see the full picture before voting -in the process, breaking its own code of practice on consultation -it seems it is intent on pushing through its welfare reformprogramme despite whatever anyone else says.

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