The government’s replacement for DLA is not fit for purpose


 

Anjuli Veall is the social policy and campaigns manager at Parkinson’s UK

Thursday 12 January’s vote against the welfare reform bill was a key victory for disabled people, including those with Parkinson’s. In powerful speeches, peer after peer objected to the arbitrary one year time limit that was proposed for means testing employment and support allowance (ESA), the benefit that provides support if you are currently too sick and ill to work.

But there is still plenty of work to be done to rid this bill of basic injustices it proposes against disabled people and those with long-term health conditions.

Imposing any time limit for receiving contributory ESA for working age people effectively means the state would be abandoning the principle that by contributing national insurance the government provides a safety net if you fall ill. So limiting it to one year is both short-sighted and unfair.

Whilst the vote to change this to two years is perhaps just as arbitrary, it is a stay of execution. Yet the government seem set on removing even this crumb of comfort when the bill returns to the Commons.

Most people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed in their 50s or 60s, after a lifetime of work and of paying into the system making National Insurance contributions. When the government sent people with Parkinson’s letters saying their ESA may end in April 2012 following the bill’s proposals, the recipients’ anger at the injustice was palpable.

Voters could be directing their fire at their MPs if the government continues to push the Commons to a vote to return to the one year time limit.

Today, peers will debate the replacement of working age disability living allowance (DLA) with personal independence payment (PIP). DLA helps people with the additional costs of living with a disability, that can be considerable, whether you work or not.

The government has made little secret that they are aiming to cut expenditure on DLA by 20 per cent and just this week revealed that under the new criteria, half a million disabled people will lose out.

The introduction of PIP means that everyone who receives the benefit, despite medical evidence that people have a long term incurable condition like Parkinson’s, should routinely re-apply for these payments.

This is as ridiculous as it is costly. The reform comes with a staggering price tag of £675 million by 2016. This is mainly because, like ESA, it will heavily rely on face to face reassessments of working age people on DLA.

There has been widespread criticism of the ESA assessment system, yet the government seems determined to repeat the same mistakes. A fluctuating condition, like Parkinson’s, means that people have good days and bad days. We have real concerns how people will be judged if they are having a “good day” at the face-to-face assessment.

Millions of people care for those who are sick and disabled across the UK saving £119 billion every year in care costs. Carer’s allowance hinges on the fact the person being cared for receives DLA. So if you lose your DLA your carer could lose their carer’s allowance. This represents a double whammy of cuts for those who need the benefits most.

The Spartacus Report exposed how the government has ignored disabled people’s criticism of their welfare reform plans. There is an opportunity to reform these benefits without causing such anxiety and distress. Government should act upon the concerns of disabled people to spot where improvements could be made.

We will continue to fight these unfair reforms so that people affected by Parkinson’s get the help and support they deserve.

See also:

Employment minister Chris Grayling does not appear to understand his own disability reformsDaniel Elton, January 13th 2012

DWP admits disability reform based on dodgy figures, as reported by Left Foot ForwardDeclan Gaffney, August 11th 2011

DWP faces legal challenge over welfare cutsNeil Coyle, July 2nd 2011

Government plans to cut DLA could cause extreme hardshipSue Marsh, January 24th 2011

Supporting disabled people not sustainable says coalitionRosanna Singler, December 7th 2010

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  • Anonymous

    abandoning the principle that by contributing national insurance the government provides a safety net if you fall ill.

    ========

    You abandoned that ages ago.

    For example, what happens if you need to go into a care home. You’ve paid your NI. You then turn around and say, we’re not going to pay out on that insurance, because you’ve been prudent and saved.

    Similarly with child benefit.

    Work hard, earn money, and you will take child benefit away. In spite of people pay tens of thousands of pounds for your mad cap schemes, when it comes to something in return for that money, your reaction is f-off, your rich. You earn 45K a year. It applies all across the left even though it was the Condems who put in into action, you’ve been implementing these policies for ages.

    As for ever saying thank you for all the cash, its two fingers yet again to the people who have to pay.

    Well, its too late. You’ve left 7,000 bn of debts, and not even the rich, the middle class or the poor person on min wage can pay enough tax to fund those debts.

    So you favourite section of society, those on benefits are going to lose money. All because you couldn’t see farther than the ends of your noses, and spent, spent spent. End result is that you have impoverished people.

    If we take that NI. For a median wage earn, 19K a year RPI linked if their NI had gone into the FTSE. Instead they get 5K, being reduced even now. That’s 12K a year you have taken off pensioners to fund your mad cap schemes. Except you lied that you were doing this. You didn’t tell people that its 12K this year the have lost, 12K plus RPI next year, ….

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  • Arecbalrin

    This is Lord Blagger without a hint of irony drawing on the outcome of an ill-thought policy intended to cut provision for disabled people, in order to justify an ill-thought policy intended to cut provision for disabled people no matter what the outcome.

    Give it a decade or so and Blagger will have a successor referring to this one to justify something just as stupid.

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  • Mr. Sensible

    Oh yes austerity is working so well in terms of cutting borrowing isn’t it, Lord Blagger.

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  • David Gillon

    I’m one of the people facing time-limiting, and having already been on ESA for 2 years, the extension won’t make one jot of difference to me. Come April my household income will drop to zero. I worked in the defence industry for 23 years, I had to be forced out of my job, I knew I would struggle to find any other. I actually had to be forced onto ESA, too, JCP couldn’t cope with my disability as a JSA claimant. The truth is that 23 years into my disability all we’ve seen is a slow but steady deterioration. IDS and Lord Freud may believe in them, but for real disabled people miracle cures don’t happen after 12 months, or 24. I see little hope of anyone employing me again, not with a disability that means I can’t sit or stand, and that regularly leaves me curled up in pain, but the government insists it is unreasonable of me not to have found a way around my disability within 12 months. So come April I’ll expected to survive on my savings, until they and my pension are gone.

    I don’t know what the future holds for me, I do know it scares me, and hundreds of thousands of disabled people like me.

  • http://www.economania.co.uk Bill Kruse

    In the short term this transers money from the public purse into the testing company, Atos. Expect directorships to follow for Grayling, Carol Black, IDS etc. In the long term it removes the protection of the welfare state. We’d all better get health insurance then – oh by the way, this whole testing scam was dreamed up by the insurance company Unum so they could avoid having to payout to people. They’re behind the takeup of this model of disability denial here in the UK too, for obvious reasons. Google for Unum scandal to read all about their activities in the States.

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