The House of Lords prepares to debate controversial reforms to disability living allowance
Welcome to day four of the Guardian’s welfare reform bill live blog. We are looking forward to more controversy and excitement over the next few days, as the House of Lords considers two contentious issues:
• The replacement of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with personal Independence Payments (PIP). The Lords will debate this on Tuesday.
• Proposals to cap the total benefits for working age households at £26,000 a year. The Lords are expected to debate this next Monday 23 January.
After last week’s rebellions over three aspects of the bill – relating to benefits for disabled children and cancer patients, and time limits on employment and support allowance – attention will be firmly on the prospects for more government defeats this week.
At the weekend the Liberal Democrats signalled that they are unhappy with the £500 a week benefit cap. The Observer reported that the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has made his concerns clear to the prime minister, while the Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes warned in a speech on Saturday that the policy would penalise families:
As it currently stands, the benefits cap will break up families, as it will provide a financial incentive to be apart. Under the plans as they stand, a couple with four children will see their benefits limited to £500 a week, but if the parents live separately, they will be able to claim up to £1,000. How will that support families?
The bishops sitting in the House of Lords are understood to be unhappy too. Lord Bishop John Packer has tabled an ammendment that will exclude child benefit from the cap, while Lord Best – the architect of the the government’s December defeat over plans to dock housing benefit from social tenants – also wants to make changes to the universal cap proposals.
According to my colleague Patrick Wintour, Best has laid down two amendments:
One to exclude those in temporary accommodation from the cap and one which would bring in a 26-week grace period once people’s benefit exceeds the cap. He said this would take the ‘rough edges’ off the policy.
Today and Tuesday we’ll be looking in more detail at the proposed reforms to DLA. We’ll be examining why the government wants to make the changes, and why campaigners – notably the extraordinary succesful #spartacusreport network of disability activists – argue that the proposals will unfairly penalise sick and disabled people.
We’ll also be looking at proposed amendments to the DLA proposals, and examining what chances they have of succeeding.
It is a scandal that one in 17 Brits will soon be claiming a benefit for people with severe disabilities.
Now, to me these stories bear all the hallmarks of a Department for Work and Pensions briefing. We’ll be examining the validity of these assertions today.
In the Guardian, we publish two pieces for and against DLA reform. Former Conservative MP Paul Goodman writes that cutting DLA is an “obligation”:
Even were there no deficit to reduce, ministers would be required to provide value for money, focus payments on those most in need, and reduce mistakes in the system. They cannot evade this obligation in the case of disability benefits.
While researcher, and former political advisor Declan Gaffney argues
The key issue for disabled people – who are the ones who will again bear the cost of ill thought-out reforms – is not whether the government suffers another defeat in the Lords but whether the right safeguards are in place for the new system.
Incidentally, the Sun’s leader is entitled “Dole Scandal”. My understanding of dole is that it means (in modern parlance) unemployment benefit. DLA is not an out of work benefit – in fact it helps many disabled people remain in work.
minister for disabled people Maria Miller has agreed to come on to the live blog to answer your questions about the government’s Disability Living Allowance reform proposals.The government’s
If you would like to ask Maria a question about DLA , please leave it in the comments section below (clearly marked “question for Maria Miller”).
We’ll put a selection of those questions to the minister overnight and we’ll publish her answers on the live blog on Tuesday.
#DLA makes it possible for me to purchase essential equipment like a walking frame & specialist seating that I need.
#dla lets my best friend put petrol in her car because her disabled child can’t use public transport
In v.rural area, car is essential, as no access public transport. Taxi to closest town costs >£15. DLA helps run my car.
Fundamentally, DLA helps disabled do what everyone else takes for granted: washing, leaving the house, eating hot meals…
DLA pays for motability car, hoist for scooter, physio, carer, xtra food & rental costs. W/out it life not worth living
For longer-read first hand accounts explaining why DLA is such a life saver for so many disabled people, there’s also a Spartacus stories website.
Ermintrude notes how #spartacusreport was more than just “clicktivism”: the fact that there was substance beyond the social media impact was crucial. She writes:
Clicking is not worthless, it is valuable. It is through social media that I have become aware of both of these initiatives. The presence of main stream media particularly on ‘Twitter’ and skilful promotion and dessemination has a real value but sometimes, it’s necessary to move beyond the ‘click of support’.
There’s more on the welfare reform bill (and lots of other social affairs news besides) on Clare’s society daily blog.
Disability charity the Papworth trust has warned that nine out of 10 people currently in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will have to cut back on food and transport if their benefit is reduced.
It is publishing insights from a survey of 2,200 last Summer which showed that three quarters of disabled people and their carers think the government is penalising them unfairly.
Here’s what one respondent, a 59 year old man who gave up work to care for his disabled wife told Papworth trust:
“The rise of the cost of living is penalising us enough. I barely have enough to get me through the week.”
“Penalising disabled people will also affect their carers who, like myself gave up work to look after a disabled person – I went from a job paying £33,000 to the miserable pittance of carers allowance – now at 59 years of age how am I supposed to get a job if my wife loses her DLA?”
“I think the government [is] discriminating [against] people with disabilities. […] The government is causing a lot [of] people unnecessary anxiety and worry. People feel life is on hold at the moment.”
The trust is urging the government to “pause” the DLA reforms because it believes the government’s proposed method of assessing DLA’s proposed successor benefit, Personal Independence Payments (PIP), will be unfair.
The proposed cuts to DLA and their impact on human dignity were the subject of a moving sermon at the West London synagogue at the weekend.
Inspired by the campaigners behind the #spartacuscampaign report, Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers told her congregation:
It is clear that our responsibility, Jewish or otherwise, to support the vulnerable in our society is not going well.
You can read the full sermon on Debbie’s blog. She notes that she was:
…moved by the congregants who approached me after the service to tell me how affected by these cuts they are.
The government has announced a small concession on its DLA reforms, deciding not to press ahead with plans to increase the qualifying period for its proposed new disability benefit to six months.
It means the current three-month qualifying period will be retained if and when the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2013.
The concession is a victory for camapigners who had called the proposed six month qualifying period “unfair”.
You can see the concession here (scroll down to amendment 51), where the welfare minister Lord Freud has added his name.
The concession was welcomed by Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope:
We’re delighted that the Government has chosen to listen to disabled people’s concerns over the qualifying period for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
It means the Government has recognised that asking disabled people to wait for six months before they can claim much-needed financial support, following the development of a condition or impairment, is unfair and unreasonable.
#spartacusreport – calling it “misplaced and misleading.”The Welfare minister, Lord Freud, has attacked the Responsible Reform report – known as the
In a letter sent to fellow peers today, and seen by the Guardian, Freud says the report
…grossly misrepresents the way DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] has been conducting disability reform thus far.
In the letter he says:
• It was legitimate for the government to hold a 10 week consultation on the DLA proposals (even though as the report points out, this was in breach of the official code of conduct rule of a minimum 12 week period) because the report was “preceded by extensive engagement with a wide range of stakeholders and disabled people.”
• The #spartacusreport is wrong to claim the government failed to take into proper account the responses it received. Freud says the 5,000 responses to the consultation were “thoroughly and appropriately considered,” and says that the #spartacusreport itself considered only 500 – 10% of the those responses.
The DWP, he argues in the letter, has been actively seeking the views of disabled people. It was after taking account of their views that the government decided, for example, to not to remove the disability component of both DLA and PIP payments for claimants who live in residential care homes.
The reform process for DLA/PIP remains open, consultative and with a real focus on co-production at all key stages
The scratchy tone of the letter suggests ministers have been rattled enough by the #spartacusreport to issue a rebuttal of two of its main points in advance of the Lords debate tomorrow.
But are Freud’s assertions correct ? Do you agree with him that the DWP has been pro-actively listening to them on DLA reform?
Her off the cuff response was:
Pot. Kettle. Black
She says she’ll be posting a paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttal of Freud’s criticisms on her blog soon.
But she says it was telling that Freud’s letter to peers did not address any of the Responsible reform reports’ substantive criticisms about the government’s miseading use of statistics, such as its claim that DLA claims have risen by 30% beetween 2008 and 2010 (which Spartacus says is just 13%).
On twitter some are less polite. AlasdairC tweets:
Irony isn’t dead then, if Freud calls #spartacusreport misleading. He’s the dissimulator
OK, here’s the last call for questions for Maria Miller, the minster for disabled people.
Thanks to the many people who have posted a question so far today. If you haven’t yet and you want to, leave it in the comments section below.
We’ll be collating the questions and putting them to Maria, who will respond on the live blog on Tuesday.
OK, that’s it. On today’s live blog we learned that:
• The welfare minister Lord Freud has attacked the #spartacusreport group of disability campaigners in a letter to peers, calling their Responsible Reform report “misplaced and misleading”.
• The campaigners have hit back with a detailed response to Lord Freud. You can read it here
• The government has published a new consultation on PIP thresholds. It contains estimates suggest that reform of DLA will lead to 500,000 fewer working age people in receipt of this disability benefit by 2015 – a cut of around 20%.
• The minister for disabled people, Maria Miller, has agreed to answer questions on DLA reform on the Guardian live blog tomorrow. Thanks for all your questions, and we look forward to her answers, which we will be publishing tomorrow.
We’ll be back on Tuesday with more detail on a series of amendments to the government’s DLA proposals and live coverage afternoon’s Lords debate.