What explains the decline of the British pub? John Harris meets a pub landlord in Millbrook in Cornwall, who explains the ‘onerous financial conditions’ imposed by the ‘pubco’ that owns his pub
Lords to debate controversial cuts to disability living allowance payments (DLA)
Was disability minister Maria Miller right when she claimed this morning that the government had “overpaid” £600m in disability living allowance benefits?
My colleague Polly Curtis has investigated this claim on her Reality Check Blog. She concludes, that although Miller is “technically correct,” the payments were legal and not recoverable.
Estimates from 2005 do suggest that £600m is paid to people whose conditions have improved meaning they no longer require it. That figure is a broad estimation, which could in fact range form £400m to £800m. However, the government acknowledged at that time the payments were legal and not recoverable because it would be impossible to pinpoint the precise point at which the persons condition improved enough to mean they no longer need the money. While the minister’s claim was technically correct, the picture is far more complicated than explained on the radio this morning.
My colleague John Domokos has just launched a fantastic Guardian film compilation of video diary accounts from disabled people outlining why DLA is so valuable, and why they fear the proposed changes.
The films – “crowdsourced” by John over the weekend – is incredibly moving. Look out for the inspired and inspiring appearance by Ben, 14, who declares on a written note held to the camera:
My mum uses my DLA to pay for all the things the doctor says I need but can’;t prescribe for me.
Another contributor encapsulates the fears that many current DLA recepients have that they will not qualify for the benefit when PIP comes in:
As the DWP advisor succinctly put it [to me] on the phone: ‘you are not disabled enough to get help. Other need it (DLA) more than you, and its possible that you are just a scrounger.’ True quote
So why is the government seeking to reform Disability Living Allowance (DLA)?
I’ve just been listening to the Radio Four Today programme interview with Maria Miller, the minister of disabled people, which was broadcast this morning. You can hear it here.
In it Miller said the government is:
Absolutely supporting disabled people – that’s why we are continuing to spend £40bn on supporting benefits and services
She says introducing Personal Independence Payments (PIP) will enable the government to target payments at the most needy. She called DLA “not a modernised benefit” and “20 years out of sdate”. The current assessment is not fit for purpose, she argued
Asked why the government was preparing to cut the benefit by 20%, she replied that it was “not reducing the bill by 20%” but simply trying to ensure the rate of growth does not continue. She argues that it is “not a 20% cut”.
Lord Colin Low, president of the Disability Alliance, a fellow guest on the programme, responded:
There’s no evidence that anybody receiving the benefit does not need it. The government is just putting a finger in the wind and coming up with numbers.
Miller replied that there was “clear evidence” that there were £600m in overpayments – and the evidence for this was contained in a report produced by the previous Labour government.
Asked whether the government was rowing back on decades of progress in supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society, who were now in danger of falling through the net, Miller disagreed:
One of the reasons why we are reforming DLA is there are people with severe mental health problems and learning disability who are falling through the net.
I also listened again to an interview with Liberal Democrcat peer Lord German on the BBC World Tonight progamme, broadcast last night (from 41.00).
Asked whether the Lib Dem peers would oppose – or not support – the government on DLA reform in the Lords this afternoon, he said:
I think the government has moved a long way on this. I think the Liberal Democrats will be wise to support this and I think they will do
Interestingly, German questions whether the PIP changes will deliver the 20% savings the govenrment hopes – he points out that we won’t know if it will until the benchmark for elegibility is set. He said:
I’m not certain there will be any savings of money. Although the government has said it thinks there will be 20% saving I do not think those figures are achievable.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, the former paralympian, is leading the charge in the Lords to mitigate proposals to replace DLA with Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
Lady Grey-Thompson is calling for a trial of the new PIP assessment scheme before it is introduced. She told the Guardian, it “made sense” to pilot the scheme before it went ahead.
It does not have to be long. In my experience as an athlete, you can have all the training plans you like but it’s only when you start doing it that you can see whether it works or not.
Hundreds of thousands of people will be affected by these changes. We want the government to do what it says, which is helping people.
In a Times report (behind paywall) Lady Grey-Thomspson, an independent crossbencher, said the government had “gone too far” in its reforms.
DLA had transformed her life, she said, enabling her to go to university and secure her first job. She said she was “terrified” about the impact of the changes, which could see 500,000 sick and disabled people “struggle with day to day” life as a result.
She told the Times
Being disabled is more expensive – it costs more to travel to work, for aid and adapatations, to add a ramp to the house. I have used the disability living allowance to buy cushions worth £300 that prevent pressure sores.
Lady Grey-Thompson is calling for:
• A one year trial of the proposed PIP system
• The name Personal Independence Payments to be scrapped– because it fails to make clear that the money is needed for people with a disability
Lady Grey-Thompson, who lives in Redcar, Cleveland, told her local paper, the Darlington and Stockton Times:
I get a huge number of emails from disabled people who are really scared. I’m worried that, for disabled people who fall out of work, or cannot get work, we are going back on everything that we fought for over 40 years.
I accept that there needs to be changes to disability benefits – and the Government says it wants to get more help to the most severely disabled – but we need to be confident that the line is being drawn in the right place.
That’s why there should be a trial period of one year, before lots of people move on to this new benefit
another defeat for the government in the House of Lords today.Welcome to Day Five of the Welfare Reform Bill live blog. Today we’ll be concentrating on proposals to reform the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). We’ll be looking at amendments to the bill and examining the prospect of
Also on the live blog today we’ll be:
• Launching a film about DLA by my colleague John Domokos. John asked disabled people to send in films explaining why DLA was so essential
• Publishing disability minister Maria Miller’s answers to your questions about DLA reform
• Hearing from my colleague Polly Curtis, who is examining Miller’s claim that £600m is being wasted on DLA overpayments on her Reality Check blog
• Publishing minute-by-minute coverage of the Lords debate on disability benefits reform from 3.15pm
It looks like being a compelling day’s discussion and debate. As my colleague Polly Toynbee puts it her report on the impact on families of DLA reform today:
All eyes will be on the Lords on Tuesday night, none more anxiously than those millions on disability benefits watching as the bill cuts its way towards them. Will the Lords rebel again, as they have four times so far? Crossbenchers hold the key, but will they stay up long enough? Many peers are incensed by Lord Freud’s clumsy attempt last week to overturn their rebellion late at night after most had gone home.