Neil Coyle is the Director of Policy at the Disability Alliance
Disability Alliance has launched the initial proceedings of legal action against Department for Work and Pensions for failures to meet UK and EU obligations in plans to make drastic cuts to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) support received by disabled people.
Disability Alliance is concerned that welfare cuts will disproportionately disadvantage disabled people and their families, including proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill to:
• Abolish low rate care DLA support which is received by 652,000 people who have provided evidence of impairments/health conditions and are acknowledged to be ‘disabled’ by DWP;
• Reduce projected DLA expenditure by 20 per cent or £2.17 billion;
• End DLA mobility support for disabled care home residents without clarity on how potential losses in support for the 78,000 people directly affected, and their families, will be mitigated.
The government has pledged a review of mobility support in care homes. The review is not open to public scrutiny and it is unclear how support will be maintained as the Welfare Reform Bill would make all disabled care home residents ineligible for support.
The government claims it wants a simpler system but the system being developed would mean: children under 16 receiving DLA, people 16-64 receiving Personal Independence Payment, some people over 65 retaining DLA but new claimants over 65 receiving Attendance Allowance and a new category of care home residents accessing DLA mobility or some alternative support unspecified by DWP.
Disability Alliance believes DWP may have failed to pay due regard to the disability equality duty pursuant to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, s49A or responsibilities arising under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in plans to abolish Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for working age disabled people (16-64 years of age).
This should be no surprise to government, who have been warned of the potential consequences of the cuts for months. And the Joint Committee on Human Rights has also been undertaking an inquiry into how Government is delivering disability rights in the UK which heard from disability organisations about welfare concerns.
As part of the inquiry, disability rights organisations from across the UK were asked to provide oral evidence and the committee focused significantly on government welfare reform plans.
UK Equality Law was used against the Lib Dem/Tory coalition in Birmingham when they tried to restrict access to care services to only people with ‘critical’ needs – estimated to cut over £30 million. The Birmingham decision was judged unlawful due to the city council’s failure to consider disabled people’s equality of opportunity in their decision-making process – i.e. without support (or with reduced support) equality of opportunity would be undermined.
The same principle applies to DLA cuts – especially as DWP have confirmed that all DLA recipients should be considered ‘disabled people’.
The government appears to believe that the cuts are possible in a vacuum with no knock-on effects elsewhere – despite charities highlighting the potential implications for the NHS in particular, with avoidable hospitalisation and higher demand for council-funded residential care for disabled people. But the Birmingham decision sends a clear message to government: the rationale for cuts to welfare must also be assessed against the potential impact on disabled people and other disadvantaged citizens.
The current DWP failure to analyse for any impact requires significant attention if the Government is not to face further legal action over its decision-making processes when the Welfare Reform Bill is enacted.