More than 100 politicians, professors and campaigners have written to Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller calling for Disability Living Allowance reform and other “anti-disability” provisions to be removed from the Welfare Reform Bill when the bill is presented for second reading in the Commons next week.
“On the grounds of its unfairness to disabled people and undermining of their human and civil rights, we reject the Government’s implementation of welfare reform.
“The Welfare Reform Bill, to be presented for its Second Reading in the House of Commons next weeks, contains measures that could be described as ‘anti-disabled people’.
“The Bill disguises cuts and changes to a number of benefits, from Housing Benefit to Income Support, that will punish disabled people, and especially those with fluctuating and hidden conditions. In particular, the Bill will time-limit contribution-related Employment Support Allowance to 365 days, so that a claimant becomes ineligible after a year if their spouse or partner works.
“The Bill confirms that Disability Living Allowance will be replaced by the Personal Independence Payment which will use unfair assessment and conditions to disqualify 20% of the current DLA caseload. The inclusion of this benefit change in the Welfare Reform Bill took place before the consultation on Disability Living Allowance reform was completed.
“The reasons for this reform are unclear, as reported by the Social Security Advisory Committee, with Ministers denying that cuts are the motivation for change. Objectivity and independence of assessment are some of the reasons offered by the Minister for Disabled People and while we understand there may be a case for a more objective assessment of needs, we believe that evidence from GPs and specialists should be sufficient in many cases as it is at present.
“We are concerned that the reasons given by the Minister suggest GPs and specialists cannot be trusted to provide medical evidence. This seems to conflict with the Secretary of State for Health’s policy of increasing GP responsibility for commissioning NHS services.
“Available evidence, including DWP research, suggests that Disability Living Allowance is an efficient and well-regarded benefit, with the lowest rate of fraud in the benefits system. As such, any reforms should be undertaken with caution, and it is important that any evidence-gathering is relevant, truly independent, conducted by appropriately qualified professionals, and that proper weight is given to other external evidence, for example from the claimant’s GP.
“For these reasons, we call for the reform of DLA, and other ‘anti-disability’ provisions that will place extra pressure on social care and social services, to be removed from the Welfare Reform Bill.”