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Government policy 'will force many disabled Scots into poverty'

5 Sep 2011

Government policy 'will force many disabled Scots into poverty'

CAS are today publishing a report they have sent to the House of Commons Select Committee on Work & Pensions. The Committee is looking at the government’s plans to end the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and replace it with a new benefit, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Publishing the CAS evidence, CAS Chief Executive Lucy McTernan said,

“With this policy the government is trying to cut the DLA bill by £1billion per year. The only way they can do that is by reducing the number of people who receive the payment, and/or reducing the amount they receive. This is going to leave many disabled people without the money they need to live with dignity.

“The government say their objective is to promote independent living for disabled people. Our fear is that these proposals in reality will mean the very opposite of that vision: they will undermine independent living for thousands of our most vulnerable citizens, slashing their income and forcing them into poverty.

“Many disabled people face every-day expenses as a direct result of their disability. e.g. essential chemist items, transport/mobility needs, higher energy costs, aids and adaptations, and childcare. Our evidence shows that significant numbers of DLA claimants are already in severe financial difficulty and struggle to meet these basic costs. *

“The DLA exists to help them do that. It is not a luxurious or extravagant payment, but an essential contribution made by a civilised society to enable our fellow citizens to live their lives. These new proposals will undermine that principle. They seek to create a system where only those ‘most in need’ will receive help, and the rest will have to go without. We think that is a deeply worrying step, and in this report we are urging the committee to join us in urging a change in direction.”

The CAS report draws parallels between the proposed DLA changes and other welfare reforms that have already been made –including the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which has had a desperate effect on many sick and disabled people. Lucy McTernan says:

“The move from DLA to PIP has all the hallmarks of the move from Incapacity Benefit to ESA. That has been a deeply flawed policy and has seen many sick and disabled people being treated very badly after being judged fit for work when they are nothing of the kind. We fear the DLA change will be more of the same, and will penalise disabled people even further.

“As we say in the report, people who are sick or disabled often have ‘good days and bad days’. The ESA assessment system has completely failed to take this into acount in judging a person’s needs and eligibility for support. It is vital that the PIP system learns from that mistake, but we see no evidence in the current proposals that this lesson has been learned.”

The CAS report also predicts that the proposed changes will put huge financial pressures on the NHS and Local Authorities, as they will have to help the many disabled people who will be left out of the new system. Lucy McTernan says,

“When someone is reliant on DLA and loses it, their need for support will still exist. So they will have to turn instead to the NHS, or to the care services provided by the Local Authority, and this will put extra pressure on their budgets. This will be even worse for Scottish Councils than for those in England (see para 26 of the report - below). As a person’s DLA decreases, so will their income and, in turn, so will the amount that the Local Authority are able to charge them for care packages.

“DLA in its current form is certainly not perfect. Indeed many claimants come to us to seek help with the application procedures, which are difficult and complicated. But the government’s planned reforms are clearly motivated less by making things easier for people in need, and more on saving money. We feel this is the wrong group of people to be targeting for further cuts, and that is our message to the committee in this report.”

The full CAS submission to the committee is appended below.

For more information on the submission, or to set up interviews etc., please contact CAS Press Officer Tony Hutson on 07774 751655. NB This is the number of the CAS Press Office, for use by journalists only. If you are a member of the public looking for CAB advice please contact your local bureau.