Report finds government misled MPs and peers of disability benefit reform

A NEW REPORT entitled Responsible Reform, published today by disabled people (9 January 2012), finds that government misled MPs and peers over the hostility to disability benefit reform.

It finds that Parliament has been given only a partial view of the overwhelming opposition to the Coalition's planned reforms of a key disability benefit, Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

It also finds that this opposition was previously not released to public scrutiny by the Government.

The report is based on the responses to the government's own consultation on its planned DLA reforms, which were only made public once disabled people requested them under the Freedom of Information Act.
Findings include:

* 98 per cent of respondents objected to the qualifying period for benefits being raised from three months to six months
* 99 per cent of respondents objected to Disability Living Allowance no longer being used as a qualification for other benefits
* 92 per cent opposed removing the lowest rate of support for disabled people

In all three cases, as well as many others, London's Conservative Mayor, Boris Johnson also objected to the proposed changes. He said in his response to the official consultation:

"The Mayor would call for the Government to retain the three-month qualifying period as the increase to six months will mean that people with fluctuating conditions have increased difficulty meeting the qualifying period. People with fluctuating conditions face the same barriers that all disabled face in relation to higher costs of living and DLA is essential to maintain a decent quality of life."

"We would recommend that the passporting system remains the same as under DLA, as it has worked well when signposting people to additional benefits to which they may be entitled."

"The Mayor does not support this change, as those on the lower rate care component may have additional costs as a result of their impairment but may lose their access to this benefit as part of the proposed removal under the reforms."

The new report, Responsible Reform, suggests that the government's DLA consultation breached the government's own code of practice and was "highly misleading".

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: "The 'Responsible Reform' report is essential reading for everyone with an interest in Disability Living Allowance (DLA) reform including the Government and Department for Work and Pensions Select Committee. It is a vital contribution to the debate on reform and a huge achievement for the volunteers who have produced it.

"As well as forensically deconstructing many of the arguments offered by the Government for their proposed reform, the report shows that much of the rise in claimants over recent years has been down to better access to the benefit for people with mental health problems, whose needs are often fluctuating and invisible.

Among the report's conclusions are that:

* Only seven per cent of organisations that took part in the consultation were fully in support of plans to replace DLA with PIP
* There was overwhelming opposition in the consultation responses to nearly all of the government's proposals for DLA reform
* The government has consistently used inaccurate figures to exaggerate the rise in DLA claimants
* The report shows that nearly all of the recent increase in working-age claimants of DLA has been associated with mental health conditions and learning difficulties. Between 2002 and 2010, the number of working-age DLA claimants - excluding those with mental health conditions and learning difficulties remained remarkably stable
* 98 per cent of those who responded opposed plans to change the qualifying period for PIP from three months (as it is with DLA) to six months
* 90 per cent opposed plans for a new assessment, which disabled people fear will be far too similar to the much-criticised work capability assessment used to test eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA)
* Respondents to the consultation repeatedly warned that the government's plans could breach the Equality Act, the Human Rights Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Use the links below to read the full press release and to access the report and the blog of Diary of a Benefit Scrounger, one of the report's authors.

Source: Ekklesia | Full report for download | Blog from one of the report's authors

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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two sons with Asperger Syndrome.
Journalist & author of two novels and a guide to SEN statementing. PR & social media expert. Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate.
Tania Tirraoro
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