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DISABILITY RIGHTS UK

January 22, 2013 7:17 PM

The Prime Minister has claimed disability organisations support the Government's welfare reform agenda - and the DWP Minister for Disabled People has suggested disabled people are protected from cuts. These two myths need debunking.

Firstly, many disability organisations do support welfare reform which delivers improvements in the way benefits are delivered or which cut the bureaucracy involved. Some aspects of current reforms deserve support - for example the taper in Universal Credit which allows people to keep more of their earned income when starting work. But there is no disability organisation supporting the total package of Government reform because the combined effect is catastrophic. Just a quick recap on some headline figures:
- 100,000 disabled children to lose under Universal Credit;
- 600,000 disabled people 16-64 years of age to lose Disability Living Allowance (DLA); and
- 300,000 disabled people to be cut off from all out of work support after just 365 days despite 75% receiving regular NHS treatment.
So it's no surprise that the most representative group - the Disability Benefits Consortium (almost 60 national disability, advice and welfare focused organisations) - doesn't support the Government agenda. Nor is it a surprise the Prime Minister can't name any relevant, representative organisation which does. If there was such an organisation Ministers would name it.
Secondly, Esther McVey suggests disabled people are protected from the cuts. Saying this may make the Minister feel better about making drastic reductions in support but it is somewhat undermined by the statistics above. Usually, Ministers suggest disabled people 'with the highest needs' are protected but here's two points showing how even this divisive technique (of suggesting some disabled people are somehow 'more deserving' than others) is inaccurate:
- The Government has confirmed that the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will close in 2015 - the ILF supports 19,000 disabled people with the highest care needs to live independently; and
- Under the abolition of DLA and introduction of the restrictive Personal Independence Payment,430,000 disabled people with the highest mobility support needs lose out. This will lead to thousands of disabled people losing Motability vehicles and will mean many disabled people in work are made unable to retain employment.
Sadly, we believe the UK is about to witness a vast rise in poverty and social exclusion for disabled people and, with the NHS and councils also facing a significant squeeze, the ability of the state to proffer alternative assistance is reduced. With charities also facing a tough financial climate and unable to fill the gap, the future's far from bright - despite the powerful and positive Paralympics in 2012.
Our request for a better understanding of the impact of the Government's plans has been ignored to date. The Government appears to be in denial. It should come clean about the lack of support for its welfare cuts and the severity of its agenda.
Neil Coyle - Director of Policy and Campaigns, Disability Rights UK