#Spartacusreport shows overwhelming opposition to coalition’s disability benefit reforms

UPDATE from Sue Marsh 11.01.12   The Impact Of Time-Limiting ESA


The Responsible Reform report shows overwhelming opposition to coalition’s disability benefit reforms kept hidden by the government… and that Conservative Mayor of London was heavily critical of government’s plans for Disability Living Allowance

The Responsible Reform report was entirely researched, written, funded and supported by disabled people, and is a testament to the power of the internet in facilitating this cooperative venture without anyone needing to step outside their front door.

A report published today (9 January) 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 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 included:

* 98 per cent of respondents objected to the qualifying period for benefits being raised from 3 months to 6 months

* 99 per cent of respondents objected to Disability Living Allowance no longer being used as a qualification for other benefits

* 92% opposed removing the lowest rate of support for disabled people

London’s Conservative Mayor, Boris Johnson’s objections, to the proposed changes, were typical of the overwhelming majority of responses to the Government’s 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.”

Boris Johnson added:

“The government proposes imposing penalties if disabled people do not inform the government in changes in their circumstances. However, the Department of Work and Pensions statistics give the overall fraud rate for Disability Living Allowance as being less than 0.5%. For those with fluctuating conditions asking them to report every change to their condition would prove very stressful.”

Analysis of more than 500 responses obtained through Freedom of Information requests,  suggests that the government’s DLA consultation breached the government’s own code of practice and was “highly misleading”.

Overwhelming opposition was expressed by disabled people’s organisations, disability charities, Boris Johnson and other groups to replacing DLA with a new Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The government also plans to cut spending on DLA/PIP by 20%.

The hope of the authors is that  the report will persuade members of the House of Lords to back an adjournment debate calling for a pause of at least 6 months, in order that, plans for PIP should be reconsidered with the views of disabled people properly taken into account.

The report has already been backed by organisations and disability experts including Disability Alliance, Mind, Papworth Trust, Scope, Bert Massie CBE & Ekklesia

 Disability Alliance – ” The Government has refused to provide a justification for a 20% cut in DLA expenditure and we fear that the same faulty rationale, misunderstanding of disability and higher costs of living and poor judgement exposed in this report sadly underpin the basis of the entire reform plans.”

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.”

 “Rather than getting out of control as the Government claims, DLA has been increasingly going to people who really need it. The proposed 20 per cent cut to the budget will have an enormous impact on many people with illnesses and disabilities, and we remain very concerned about the unintended consequences this could lead to.”

 Papworth Trust : “Our recent survey found that almost 9 out of 10 people would have to cut back on essentials such as food or being able to get out and about if their DLA payments were reduced or stopped under PIP. We believe that the proposed 20% cut will push more disabled people into poverty. Given that this report was entirely researched, written, funded and supported by the people that these changes will affect, we believe that the questions it raises should be answered by the Government.

Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of disability charity Scope said:  “We urge the government to listen and act on these concerns and to ensure its replacement takes into consideration all the barriers disabled people face in everyday life so they can live independently and play an active role in their local community.”

Sir Bert Massie CBE said  “I have always found the explanations offered by the Government to be unconvincing and I therefore welcome this report which analyses the evidence on which the decisions were based. It shows that rather than being broadly welcomed by disabled people and disability organisations the new proposals were subject to widespread criticism and alarm.”

Simon Barrow, Co-Director of the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia, said :  There remains a gaping chasm between the government’s rhetoric about maintaining support for disabled people and the actual evidence about the impact of the changes and cuts it is imposing. The voices of those at the sharp end are not being listened to in a way that shapes policy. The concepts of justice dignity and social solidarity are being eroded and replaced with a piecemeal approach to provision which sees care as essentially voluntary.”

Sue Marsh, the disabled blogger and activist who led the research, alongside Dr Sarah J Campbell, said:   “For some years now, poorly designed Social Security reforms have created a “trust deficit” among disabled people towards government.”

“We believe that reform must be measured, responsible and transparent, based on available evidence and designed with disabled people at the very heart of decision-making. Currently, we do not believe this to be the case.”

“We urge members of the House of Lords – across party political boundaries – to take note of this research and the strength of opposition to the proposals. It is not too late for them to halt these deeply damaging reforms.”

Another contributor to the report, Kaliya Franklin, said :

“Cutting spending on DLA will increase the burden on local authorities, the NHS and community services at the very time they are seeking to find savings by reducing eligibility, particularly for social care support.

Discussion of the Welfare Reform Bill is due to resume at its report stage on 11 January in the House of Lords.

Among the report’s conclusions:

* 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.

* Analysis of more than 500 responses, suggests that the government’s DLA consultation breached the government’s own code of practice and was “highly misleading”.

http://tinyurl.com/78erjru Shortened Report – Responsible Reform to Disability Living Allowance (accessible version)

The report was written by Sue Marsh, the author of the blog Diary of a Benefit Scrounger, and Dr Sarah J Campbell.   http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com/

Boris Johnson’s full response to the consultation can be found here: http://www.leftfootforward.org/images/2012/01/Mayoral-Submission.pdf

Related Think Left references:

Welfare reform and ME/CFS (Dr. Sue Davies)      

Welfare reform and the US insurance firm Unum (Dr Sue Davies)

3 thoughts on “#Spartacusreport shows overwhelming opposition to coalition’s disability benefit reforms

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