Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Broken Of Britian Response To DLA Reform Consultation

The coalition government have continued slowly turning the screws on disabled people, a task started by the previous government.  Harsh cuts to existing benefits and services announced through an eager media have created a climate of fear for Britain’s disabled people.  Despite that, when finally announced, the changes to Disability Living Allowance were sweeping in a way some had feared but not expected.  D L A will cease to exist in 2013-14, replaced by the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).  PIP is supposed to be simpler than DLA, although much of the perceived complexity is due to a wider lack of understanding of the nature of disability.  In this context, what simpler really means is cheaper – especially as the plans are to cut 20% of the DLA caseload.  This cut will be needed to pay for incredibly costly reassessments to people with conditions with no hope of recovery such as quadriplegia or degenerative genetic diseases.  There is a clear indicator of intent to limit entitlement in the words ‘focusing on those with greatest support needs’

Some people may lose money as the aids and adaptations they use enabling them to live with their disability will be considered to negate the need for that financial support.  The new system will lead to situations where wheelchair-users who can get around themselves may be denied support, even though the intention of the present DLA system is to help towards extra costs of mobility and care.  This approach ignores the fact that benefits may be the only thing enabling the purchase of adaptations such as wheelchairs or use of taxis for those unable to use public transport.  In any case, aids and adaptations depend on availability with long waiting lists for appropriate wheelchairs.  Many disabled people, including this author, fall through the gaps of the provision in the current system and thus are much more significantly disabled by their environment than impairment.

This change will be an unnecessary and expensive rebranding exercise.  Although the caseload will be reduced PIP will still look very much like DLA albeit with a 21st century name  at a time when government spending, is supposedly, being squeezed.  The current system also allows for automatic entitlement to DLA for certain conditions.  The new system will not; all claimants will be required to be reassessed every few years.  This is not only foolish, but also costly as automatically entitled conditions are by nature the most severe and incurable.  The only thing that will be achieved is extra cost of unnecessary assessment, additional complication instead of simplification and inconvenience for severely ill people.  Additional waste comes from ignoring the reality that people will remain disabled and have needs even if they are no longer able to qualify for benefits.  They will be ignored up to the point they become seriously ill and end up costing the NHS and local authorities more in terms of hospitals and residential care.  Furthermore, the proposed reforms ignore the fact that some conditions are severe but acute.  Not supporting short-term illness and disability makes it more likely this will become a costly long-term problem therefore increasing dependency.

The PIP proposals will see some current recipients of social care losing financial benefits now paid over at least in part to the local authorities for receipt of that care.  This will force local authorities to make up the shortfall in funding likely achievable through cutting care packages.  Another hole in the recommendations made is the impact of these plans on independent living, making that harder to achieve.  Removing DLA from those who receive care packages, and especially recipients in residential care, will not promote independence.

This system will use independent assessment to form an objective assessment although it is not known why the DLA assessment is understood to not be objective.  Current practice is to be assessed by a variety of resources; information from family or a carer, the persons GP, specialist consultant or physiotherapist are standard with face- to-face medical assessments if these and more do not provide enough evidence.  What independent means is that a private company such as Atos will be contracted to run assessments and offered incentives to remove people from the system, as they already do with work related benefits.  This process will include meeting with an independent healthcare professional not necessarily qualified as a doctor-working for the assessors similarly to the already problematic Employment Support Allowance (ESA) system.  The objections to a private company (foreign-owned) using unqualified staff who know their jobs depend on keeping to strict targets with the sole goal being to reduce benefits are too many to count.

More important is the question of whether it is ever possible to make a truly objective assessment of disability.  Disability is, by its very nature, as complex and variable as human beings and influenced by many different factors.  What severely disables one person may not be such a significant barrier to another, yet both will require tailored support to enable them.

The focus on DLA as a disincentive to work is false and disingenuous.  People who receive DLA do often have lower work expectations as the reform consultation paper suggests, and rightly so.  Regardless of desire, many disabilities and conditions make work impossible.  Disabled people are often unable to compete equally in the labour market, even if there is work for them, which too often there is not.  People with high rate awards have highest level of disabilities and are least likely to be able to work regardless of benefits.  Those who do work and with lower awards are often only able to work because of the aids, support and adaptations DLA allows them to purchase.  The focus on move to work has no place in a discussion about DLA other than to make the important clarification that DLA is not work related and exists to assist life with a disability.


markwrightuk said...

i completely agree with all that you put. i hope you dont mind i have reblogged this post on to my blog on www.markwrightuk88.blogspot.com
i have responded to teh consiltation in a disapointed manner but i feel all these cahnges are all so unessesary. Maybe some are claiming for it and shouldnt be but it doesnt call for a mass over haul of teh whole benifit. I will be campaigning to keep DLA if i can. i already have a facebook page set up called keep the disability living allowance. feel free to join it.
the address is

Jules Clarke said...

I re-blogged your post at http://virtualgherkin.blogspot.com/2010/12/dla-reform-consultation-exposed.html , ownership acknowledged.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Hello! Please feel free to reproduce this wherever you like, so long as it links back either here or to our Broken of Britain blog. Unlike 'them' we really are all in it together! BG

Nemonie said...

Hi Bendygirl,

I have put a post up on the HMSA forums with a link to the DLA consultation document and a plea for all members of the forum to respond to the consultation and write to their MP's too. I hope you don't mind if I put in a link to to this post on that thread.

Shullie said...

as a newly called 'bendy,' (though now know on hindsight that most of my previous problems /medical issues were related to my bendiness... not spotted by GP till I told him - though that is bye the bye) - I am, it seems since I hit my mid 40, deteriorating fast. After working , being ill, getting back to work, being ill again and other numerous health problems, including heart issues ( possible linked) I actually was placed back long term incapacity, and had to have one of the dreaded medicals, only to receive a letter telling me that I had 'passed' with such a high score I didn't need to be seen again for 18 months... I had managed before the medical to attend a interview, and after the medical, just after I received the letter telling me I was officially allowed to remain on IB, was offered a temp part time job for a Local Authority doing what I do. I took it of course, and I am still there a year later... though my health and mobility is getting worse and worse. I am terrified that soon it will be so bad that work will be almost impossible. Not because my brain won't work,. and not because of the mobility issues - all of which are surmountable... but because of the severe fatigue, extreme pain issues ( medication just makes me too sleepy to do the job) . While my employer is understanding and tries too help, when push comes to shove.. it will be me who will be shoved- I am, after all, only a temp employee. And then what! I haven't as yet made a claim for DLA, though the time is getting closer. I do have a mobility pass for the buses, I walk - sort of , with the aid of stick, I seemed to click and dislocate some days in harmony with my mouse clicks.

What scares me is what happens when I can no longer work all the time... who will want to employ me, with my sick record. When some days I am in so much pain I want to cry - and that's after doping myself up with meds.

After studying and working all my life, if feels like someone has not just stolen the safety net. they have changed it for one with much bigger holes in it... and at every turn a new hole appears.

Sorry for the rant, today has not been a good day...what with the snow, ice etc.. and a body that won't do as it's told... I am fed up, bruised and quite angry/scared of what the future may have in store for me and people like me whose health, whatever they do, is going to deteriorate and who it seems have been told to shut up and put up!

Anonymous said...

You have got your DLA high rate award. This is because you are genuine. All others in a similar situation have nothing to fear. Relax, and have some faith. Some people are playing the system. The sooner they are rooted out the better for all those who really need help.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog and will be reposting on fb.

I suffer from a condition called Fibromyalgia and have done for the past 17yrs. I only received my diagnosis 7yrs ago and only received a limited number of sessions with pain management with no extra support between sessions. My condition can be managed but it needs a certain number of authorities (NHS, Council housing etc) to come together, something which I feel will never happen. I worked until the point where working made my condition unbearable and where management felt that I was of no use and would fire me as I had to take sick days more often then not. So my Dr signed me off work till further notice and I was placed on DLA (lower mobility and middle care). This hasn't stopped me from trying to gain further education so I can re-enter the work place but in a job that I can control in regards to my condition. University has not been easy but thankfully they have been extremely supportive of my needs.

I know that once these changes come through I will be dropped from DLA as there is not enough understanding about my condition, already I have had the DWP try and force me back into the one job I am trained in (retail) even though that is the one job that causes me the most pain. I am hoping that I would have finished my degree before these changes are put into place ... also that by this time I have put enough pressure on the right places to help me manage my condition so that life is a lot less painful.

I do hope that people will stand up to these cuts and changes in the benefit system as a many of us who are not playing the system are going to suffer. The government are attacking the poor and disabled where they should be attacking the banks and those exploiting the loop holes in paying taxes. Those of us on DLA have really suffered enough with the medical problems we have ... why should we suffer more?????

Wheelie said...

Not disagreeing with you in the least - I'm on middle rate care and lower mobility, indefinite.

Could you post a few links that led your conclusions so I can make my own mind up x

Nemonie said...

To anon 7.55am - DLA has a fraud rate of 0.5%, which is less than the error rate of the DWP at 0.6% (according to their own statistics.
I have the same condition as Bendygirl, though not quite as bad. I have only been awarded lower rate care for DLA, which under the proposed system will no longer exist.

rashid1891 said...

You have got your DLA high rate award. This is because you are genuine. All others in a similar situation have nothing to fear. Relax, and have some faith. Some people are playing the system. The sooner they are rooted out the better for all those who really need help

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Rashid: 0.5% of DLA claims are fraudlent. Ignoring the reality of what other disabled people are going through to get/be denied benefits they are entitled to would make me a pretty crap excuse for a human being.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Wheelie: Hi! We formed those opinions based on reading the full DWP consultation doc, http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2010/dla-reform.shtml

krystaline said...

have reposted this on my two blogs and on facebook :)