Barely days after proudly pledging her support for the rights of disabled people on International Day for Persons with Disabilities, Department for Work and Pensions minister Maria Miller has now announced that Disability Living Allowance, used by disabled people to pay for everyday things like heating or specialist equipment, is “unsustainable”, with the government launching a consultation on plans to scrap it and replace it with Personal Independence Payment.
On December 3rd, Maria Miller, Minister for Disabled People at the Department for Work and Pensions, said:
“The UK has a strong history of disability rights and this is recognised by the international community. We ratified the UN Convention last year, and we are now working with disabled people, organisations that represent them, business and the voluntary sector to ensure that the things we have committed to become a reality.
“We want disabled people to fulfill their potential.”
Support for disabled people to “fulfill their potential”, however, appears to have ebbed away to reveal a government who will not even protect the most vulnerable from the cuts.
The consultation document says that “the rising caseload and expenditure [of DLA] is unsustainable” and will introduce a new assessment from 2013 for all recipients. According to the Disability Alliance, this will have the “primary objective of restricting access to this essential benefit for disabled people”.
The government says that DLA will be reformed to make it a:
“…clearer, more targeted benefit, with an objective assessment. The reforms will also aim to help disabled people take part more fully in society.”
But Disability Alliance disagrees. Speaking to Left Foot Forward, director of policy Neil Coyle said:
“It is bitterly ironic that the government has chosen to announce radical cuts to disabled people’s support so soon after the International Day of Disabled People. It also seems ironic that one of Thatcher’s last acts was to introduce ‘The Way Ahead’ white paper which introduced DLA, but one of the first acts of the coalition government is to axe 20 per cent of the support it provides disabled people.”
What does not appear anywhere in this consultation document is the fact that the government were already planning to cut DLA, with the Treasury stating in the 2010 Emergency Budget that 20 per cent of DLA ‘caseload and expenditure’ would be cut. This is a point not missed by the Disability Alliance, as they argue that this new assessment:
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“…has the primary objective of restricting access to this essential benefit for disabled people.”