Flash Says…

DLA reform and the Spartacus Report

Posted on: 2012-01-09

Today on Twitter you will see many disabled people and charities saying “I support the #SpartacusReport”. So what is this report and what does it mean?

The Spartacus Report is a piece of research, released today, entitled “Responsible Reform”. It looks at responses to a government consultation about replacing Disability Living Allowance. The report was funded and written by disabled people, and we feel it belongs to us.

Disability Living Allowance is an essential payment, made to people with disabling conditions to compensate them for the additional costs of mobility, and/or care. It is paid whether or not the recipient is able to work, and in many cases makes the difference between being able to leave the house – and go to work – or being stuck at home. For more information on how essential DLA is to people, see my previous articles The real difference made by DLA and DLA – the gateway benefit.

In December 2010 the government opened a consultation on replacing DLA with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). They had already said that 20% of DLA payments had to be cut, although the government’s own figures accepts that less than 1% of claims are fraudulent. So where would these cuts come from?

A response was published by Iain Duncan Smith, secretary of state for work and pensions, in April 2011. This document claimed to outline the responses of the consultation – from over 5000 individuals and 500 organisations – and the government’s reply to it. However, it glossed over the overwhelming opposition to the proposal of PIP.

Something had to be done. Sue Marsh (“suey2y”) and other disability campaigners joined forces. They came up with the “Spartacus report”. The Responsible Reform report gives the truth of the responses, having obtained copies of the organisations’ responses via a Freedom of Information request.

It shows that
• 92% of respondents opposed the proposal to change from 3 different levels of the Care component, to 2 levels
• 87% of respondents opposed the stopping of automatic entitlement to DLA
• 98% opposed changing the qualifying period from having the disabling condition for 3 months, to having it for 6 months before claiming
• 90% opposed the introduction of new face to face assessments
• 92% opposed change to the review system
• 88% said that aids that a person uses should not be considered when assessing them
• 88% opposed a new change-of-circumstance system involving sanctions
• 94% oppose the introduction of compulsory advice and support
• 64% said that one-off costs should be funded by DLA – it is not clear what this question actually involves
• 100% opposed the removal of DLA mobility component for residents of care homes, and the government have since rescinded this
• 99% oppose the removal or streamlining of passporting (i.e. using DLA as a gateway benefit to other services)
• 54% support the sharing of information between departments

In section after section, the conclusion is “The Government fails to respond to the concerns and suggestions of disabled people”.

It is clear that disabled people don’t want DLA to be overhauled or replaced with PIP, not because it isn’t working, but precisely because it is. The government needs to find the money to sustain DLA payments at their current rates, otherwise disabled people will be the ones who pay the price, by being stuck at home unable to afford transport costs, or lost without essential aids, unable to pay for the prepared food they need because they are unable to cook, or unable to fund the care they require. Please do read The real difference made by DLA in order to understand exactly what disabled people stand to lose. It’s more than just independence and dignity.

So what can you do about this? Read the report: Shortened Report – Responsible Reform and Shortened Press Release. If you’re on twitter, show your support using the #SpartacusReport hashtag. Contact your MP saying something like “This report into Disability Allowance Reform has been written, researched and funded by disabled people. As one of your constituents, I am very concerned by its findings and the misrepresentation of disabled people that it exposes. Please will you read the report and support sick and disabled people in calling for a pause to Personal Independence Payments in light of this new research. I look forward to your response.” You can contact your MP using the Write to them website.

Even if you are lucky enough not to be disabled yourself or have any disabled relatives, remember that disability can strike anyone. It is just one car crash, or stroke, or fall, away. One in two people will be disabled at some point in their lifetime. You too may find yourself dependent on disability benefits. Can you afford to ignore this report?

7 Responses to "DLA reform and the Spartacus Report"

Thank you for the clear explanation.

Spasticus supports the Sparticus report. For more information about how the cuts are affecting disabled Londoners, look at Spasticus’s Inclusive London? website http://www.inclusive-london.com

NB: Paste this URL into your address bar to avoid getting the official, misleading (as exposed on the BBC’s One Show) inclusivelondon.com website by default.

I find the report confusing as I am not sure if it is for or against the needs of the disabled. As a parent of 2 disabled kids, I think that anything that is going to ensure that genuinely disabled people receive financial support and weedles out fake claimants has to be an improvement?

Hi Julie. I think the Spartacus Report is helpful for disabled people. It’s exposing the fact that, despite what the government say, respondents to the consultation were AGAINST most of the proposed changes. The changes that are being proposed will make it harder for people to qualify and many people who now get DLA will NOT qualify under the proposed changes. For example they want to do away with the lower rate of care component, and they have changed the wording so that where someone used to be asked if they could walk 50 metres, now it’s if they can “mobilise” 50 metres. So if you could shuffle with a walking frame but not walk unaided, you would no longer qualify. They will refer to aids whether or not you have them. So for example they might decide that I could use a wheelchair in my house. Now in practise I can’t, the hall is too narrow. But in theory I could “mobilise” with a hypothetical wheelchair, so they would tick a box that I can move about without an issue. Does that make sense?

You refer to “fake claimants”. As I said, “[the government] had already said that 20% of DLA payments had to be cut, although the government’s own figures accepts that less than 1% of claims are fraudulent. So where would these cuts come from?” Do you see the problem? The introduction of PIP is deliberately being done in such a way that 20% of people who now qualify for DLA would no longer get anything. However the government’s own figures show that actually 0.5% of DLA claims are fraudulent. Even if they manage to catch and exclude those people (and there’s no guarantee that they would) that leaves 19.5% of disabled people who were on DLA who will no longer get any benefit. Their disability won’t go away but their benefit will.

I don’t know if you followed the link to my article The real difference made by DLA but this gives examples of how people use their DLA. If your children get DLA you will also know how valuable it is. If it is removed, people will be housebound. Or unable to afford the specialised or ready-made food that they need. Or unable to afford their medicines. Or unable to afford someone to come in and help them at home. And so on.

So I hope that explains why the government’s proposed “reforms” changing DLA to PIP is a terrible idea. The Spartacus authors call for, as the report is titled “Responsible reform”. So far, the government is being far from responsible and playing fast and loose with people’s health and people’s lives.

Thanks for your comment and I hope I’ve explained – if not, please comment again and I’ll come back to help.

Reform is welcomed where it improves disabled people’s lives. It is wrong if it withdraws support from people who need it.

It became clear from the responses to the DLA/PIP consultations that that is exactly what will happen if PIP goes ahead in its current form.
The DWP published its draft assessment proposals this morning.
Under these someone who can walk just 20 steps will lose their high rate mobility benefit.
Someone who cannot shower, wash their hair or dress themselves will lose ALL their care benefit.

As regards weeding out fake claimants, the DWP’s own statistics put fraud at just 0.5%, yet want to cut costs by 20%. By definition this means that “genuine claimants” will have to bear the brunt of this.

The new assessment has been criticised by all who have looked at it. It is similar to the WCA rolled out for Employment and Support Allowance, which is causing many problems. Under this, the evidence from your GP and consultants could be overruled during a 20 minute interview by a nurse who is not an expert in your illness or disability.

The cost of continually reassessing everyone is prohibitive and that money has to come from somewhere. It means more money on administration and less money given out as benefits to the disabled people who need it. People being reassessed will include people with incurable and progressive illnesses like Parkinson’s or alzheimer’s disease, blind people, amputees and people with life long learning disabilities such as down’s syndrome.

The cost is estimated to be £300-500 million over a 3 year period compared to the current £14 million per year for DLA. Remember, the difference will be coming out of disabled people’s pockets. And this isn’t even looking at the human cost of unnecessarily continually reassessing people, with the stress and misery it involves.

No one is against assessment. No one is against reform. But I am personally against unnecessary assessments and reassessments. I am against cost cuts which will harm real disabled people who will have nowhere to turn. And I am against ill thought out reforms.

I have rapid cycling Bipolar, and I have as my psychiatrist says “a lot of insight” so I understand now that when I go up, I scare people,strangers,on buses,trains,streets anywhere and talk for hours in depth about subjects they aren’t interested in but I am obsessed by, and that I can’t help but tell people their faults cause I am Godly and have none, and can be aggressive about it and I know that when I come down I remember all this and die inside see the faces,the grimaces the trying to get away from me I never noticed at the time etc and I have to fight to stay.I have the feeling they will say I am fit for work and I know what will happen.
DLA means I can cocoon myself away when I am very ill and avoid a lot of it , avoid black eyes, exploitation, broken bones, teeth, the hate, semi-consensual,non-consensual rape These things give you eventually a bit of insight .
The government scares me, so I am preparing. I am essentially starving myself a bit to buy things that will make things easier for my(older) kids if I have to go( I understand I have till next October), cause I can’t see me sticking around for it, makes me feel too bad thinking I will have to do this all again have to go out there.I found applying for DLA traumatic, going through it again and again even if I get it frightens me I have no hope left.Thank you Mr Cameron, I know you don’t give a **** and that its probably what your aiming for,less benefits to pay.I just wanted to show what it does, It all just makes me really sad. I am sorry if this isn’t the appropriate place to post this.

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