The strength of opposition to the government's plans to reform disability living allowance (DLA) has been revealed in a new report written and funded by people with disabilities.
The report, Responsible Reform, found that in the submissions to the government's consultation on DLA reform 74% of respondents were against the replacement of DLA with the personal independent payment (PIP). Only 7% were fully in favour. It collated existing information and analysed some 500 group replies to the government's response to DLA reform, obtained under Freedom of Information requests. Researchers also found overwhelming opposition in the consultation responses to nearly all of the government's proposals for DLA reform. For instance:
- 98% of respondents objected to the qualifying period for benefits being raised from 3 to 6 months
- 99% of respondents objected to DLA no longer being used as a qualification for other benefits
- 92% opposed removing the lowest rate of support for disabled people.
The report also concludes that the government broke its own code of practice by making the consultation two weeks shorter than usual, and presenting the legislation to parliament 2 days before the consultation closed - making it impossible to take into account the findings of it. Plans to reform DLA are contained in the wider Welfare Reform Bill, which is due to resume at its report stage on January 11 in the House of Lords.
Sue Marsh, a disabled blogger and activist who led the research, alongside Dr Sarah J Campbell, said: "While disabled people welcome reform of DLA where it will simplify the system and better support their needs, they do not want a new benefit. They believe it is a costly irrelevance during a time of austerity. "We urge members of the House of Lords - across party political boundaries - to take note of this research and the strength of opposition to the proposals. It is not too late for them to halt these deeply damaging reforms."
Another contributor to the report, Kaliya Franklin, said: "Cutting spending on DLA will increase the burden on local authorities, the NHS and community services at the very time they are seeking to find savings by reducing eligibility, particularly for social care support. "Sick and disabled people have voluntarily combined our skills, experience and talent to produce this report, demonstrating that if we are able to work in the way our conditions demand, we can participate in the world of employment, but only if it is willing to receive us on our terms, with more flexible ways of working and participating." The reports authors hope to use the report to persuade members of the House of Lords to back an adjournment debate calling for a pause of at least 6 months.
Shaun Williams, director of corporate affairs at Leonard Cheshire Disability, backed this call. "Peers are being asked to vote on the future of this benefit before knowing all the details and implications," he said. "The Responsible Reform report, produced exclusively by disabled people, shows the real need to stop and consider the repercussions these reforms will have. "The report also highlights the very real worries disabled people and their organisations have over doubling the qualifying period of DLA from 3 to 6 months. "Doubling the time people will have to wait before they receive this lifeline benefit could push them very quickly into debt and poverty." Williams added that a recent YouGov survey found that more than 1 in 3 people (37%) would find themselves in debt within three months if they had £70 less a week - the average DLA payment. "Disabled people are already twice as likely as non-disabled people to live in poverty. We are calling on the Government to recognise the impact that holding back payments could have and re-think these proposals."