The Government announced in its Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) that it would be ditching the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). This is a terrible idea. This blog will outline why the Government has come to the conclusions it has and why it is wrong on three levels.
What is the DLA?
The DLA is a tax free benefit for disabled people worth an average of £33.40 per person per week. It is given to people who have severe physical disabilities or learning disabilities, and as such either needs someone to help look after them or have trouble walking. There are two elements of the DLA, the mobility component (which is to be cut) and the care component. If the cuts go ahead the government will save about £140 million each year (which although significant is small change compared to the £81 billion to be cut between now and 2014/2015).
The mobility component helps people to pay for things like mobility aids such as electronic wheelchairs, accessible transport to the cinema or simply pooling the money of other care home residents to hire a car to visit family.
Why has the Government come to the conclusions it has?
The Government believes there is currently a “double spending” on mobility. This is based on an assumption that all the needs of an individual are met by their local authority funded support package. The logic then follows that they are being paid twice, once by central Government and second by the local authority. This simply is not the case and leads me onto why the Government has misunderstood this issue on three levels.
Why the Government has got this wrong!
1) The government has based its funding decisions on a false assumption of “double spending”.
An individual has to follow three basic steps to claim DLA. 1) Undertake a community care assessment (which identifies his or her needs) 2) Have these needs matched to against different eligibility bands (critical to low) 3) Based on the specific local authority’s policy see whether this “band” which you have been assigned is regarded as eligible for services. This then determines what services will be provided for you by your local authority.
In reality, this of course does not happen. Firstly, the majority of councils will only fund substantial and critical needs. Therefore, someone might be eligible for DLA care, but not eligible for support according to the local authority criteria. Mobility, when considered, tends to be considered in the crudest most crass form (trips to day care centres, hospital trips etc). The idea of paying for “personal mobility” (in other words fulfilling a normal level of activity that most people take for granted) is out of the question. The government seems to think that these activities either should not be paid for, or are already covered by the local authority. This is flagrantly not the case.
2) The government seems to be clueless to how people spend the mobility component of the DLA.
By removing the benefit, most people living in care will be left with just £22.30 a week for a personal allowance. By removing this benefit, I would suggest, we remove some disabled individuals ability to live a fulfilling and independent life. For many, this small amount (£18.95 for lower rates and £49.85 for higher) can be the difference between meeting with their friends that week or not! The government seems to be oblivious to these kinds of considerations!
3) The government continues to state that “the notion behind the changes to DLA mobility is to ensure that those in residential care receive the same standard of care as those in hospitals”
A residential home is their HOME, they are not patients! They are not “ill”, they are disabled. If David Cameron honestly, believes this to be true, then I would seriously question his ability to comment on any future policy. If you are in hospital for a short period you do not need the same level of mobility paid for as if you are living in a care home for 20 years. This is such a fundamental misunderstanding of disability living that it makes you truly shudder.
The Government needs to reverse its decision in light of these points. If they do not, we risk returning to the dark ages where disabled people were out of sight, out of mind. We cannot let this happen