Flash Says…

The real difference made by Disability Living Allowance

Posted on: 2010-09-30

[Crossposted to Where’s the Benefit where I am one of the team.]

It seems that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) can be quite misunderstood. Even government ministers seem to get confused, sometimes referring to it as an “out-of-work” benefit. (It isn’t.) And now DLA, along with many other essential benefits for disabled people, is under threat. Here are a few basic facts, and an illustration of why DLA can be critically important, in the words of those who receive it.

DLA is not means-tested. It is a benefit which exists to compensate the disabled person for the extra costs of living they incur compared to non-disabled people – many examples of which are given below. It’s paid regardless of whether the recipient is in work – in fact, in some cases DLA is crucial in helping the recipient get to or continue in work. There are two parts to the benefit – one covering care needs, and the other relating to mobility. The money is paid directly to the disabled person for them to use as they need.

The government has already said that, although fewer than 1% of claims are thought to be fraudulent, they intend to reduce claimants by 20% via new medical tests. Read the comments below and see if you can imagine one in five of these people having to manage without it. The government may not wish to pay them, but their needs will not disappear.

I spoke to a variety of people who, like me, receive Disability Living Allowance. Here are a selection of comments illustrating its importance.

Education and work:

“DLA means I can sustain myself enough to study. It also pays for taxi fares to university.”

“I damage clothes more quickly than other people because I fall over and sometimes have to crawl; DLA means I can buy new clothes and maintain a professional appearance in my work.”

“I spend my DLA on my education – I need a room on-campus (which is more expensive than alternatives), photocopying and books. I have mental health issues, and that course literally saved my life.”

Food and bills:

“My DLA is spent on food – from ready meals to takeaways – because I’m not able to cook for myself.  Without DLA I’d rely on friends to cook for me or I’d simply go without meals.”

“I have extra costs such as delivery charges from supermarkets, but also I can’t buy the cheapest food because stores like Lidl and Aldi don’t deliver. So my shopping costs are more than for someone who could manage to get to the shops themselves.”

“I am so tired from my job that when I get home I can’t make food for myself. Takeaways are expensive and they have a minimum order price. DLA covers the difference.”

“My electricity costs more than most people because I need the heating on to reduce my pain levels, and I need to recharge my wheelchair. DLA helps pay for the difference in my bills.”

Transport:

“All of my mobility allowance goes to pay for a Motability car – it’s the only way I could ever afford one. But there are still other costs like petrol, so some of my care allowance has to go towards that, because I have to get around.”

“If my money was stopped I would not have a car and would be stuck at home all day while my partner was at work.”

“Until my DLA came through I had to cancel hospital appointments because I couldn’t justify paying a taxi fare except in emergencies. This continued for several months…”

“Without DLA I would literally be house-bound. I wouldn’t be able to get out at all.”

Independence:

“My DLA gives me back some control, it’s the one thing that doesn’t rely on someone else being willing to help me.”

“When my partner and I lived apart, I qualified for a lot more benefit, free prescriptions and so on. Now we live together, his job means that we get less money overall. This means that my DLA is even more important – so I have some income of my own.”

“I have a cleaner who comes every week – she does tasks that I can’t manage myself. It gives me pride that I can manage my responsibilities even if I’m not doing them myself.”

“The most important thing that DLA pays for is my independence. It means I am more equal to my partner and don’t have to keep asking them for money. It means I can pull my weight.”

“I’m recovering from mental health problems and I’m rebuilding my life. I use my DLA money for things like basic furniture and decorating costs. It’s providing much needed support in many areas. I also use it for help with transport. Otherwise I would be in debt.”

And finally…

“If I didn’t have DLA I simply wouldn’t cope. I have cut back on everything as it is, we don’t have any luxuries, so there is no room for me to exist with less.”

“Without DLA I would not manage at all. I would be forced to bed and to beg for assistance from my loved ones, but this position is unsustainable…”

Those last two comments are frightening but demonstrate how tightly many disabled people have to manage their finances and how close to the edge they are operating. They simply cannot imagine a way to cope if this money was taken away.  Essentials such as meals, prescriptions or heating would be at risk if DLA was cut back, and disabled people could be stuck at home, unable to access jobs or education.

Everyone I heard from relied on their DLA payment for independence and quality of life; it was as simple as that.

It is critical that this benefit is protected in its current state and that the government’s proposal to reduce the number of claimants by 1 in 5 is robustly opposed. The treasury may need to make cuts, but when it comes to Disability Living Allowance there is simply no room to manoeuvre.

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7 Responses to "The real difference made by Disability Living Allowance"

I had polio as a child, and now latter in my life I have ‘Post polio Syndrome’. If my benefits are cut I don’t know what I would do, as the small amount that we get anyway considering we are so disabled, is as far as I’m concerned an insult to the extreme. I have paid my taxes for years as a working disabled person when I could work, and now this Government wants to attack me when I’m down again. This Government should get the banks to foot the bill for all the mess they have put us ALL in. This decision by this Government is crass stupidity, lets get them out! James Gilbert.

[…] changes to DLA have been much reported – and you can see articles about why it matters on Flash Says and across the blogosphere, including Where’s the Benefit of course. The news that 20% of […]

i am a single parent to 3 children, the eldest, age 11, has severe peanut and tree nut allergy, asthma, excema and duanes syndrome. her renewal claim for dla was turned down in march 2010, since then i cannot afford to pay for heating, water rates or any other bills, all my weekly income gets spent on buying foods that are safe for her to eat, as all the supermarket own brands ‘may contain nut traces’ so i have to buy the more expensive brands due to how severe her reactions are and that they are life threatening we cannot and would not take the chance on giving her the cheaper brands. i now have lost my car as cannot afford to run it and cannot even afford to buy any new clothes or other essentials for my children or myself, all my money is spent on feeding one child and has an affect on the whole family some weeks after food shopping i have to make the choice between having heating or electric in the house …. what you spend dla does not even get considered when claiming and dla have told me it is not to help pay for the extra costs of living that people with disabilities have compared to people without??

They look at your needs within their strict system of checkboxes, I think, although it’s always worth appealing and asking for a panel hearing, since it will be real human beings on there and they might at least be able to explain why your daughter doesn’t qualify or else find ways that she does.

That said, I think they are getting tougher on care needs recently – two adults I know well have been told that they are able to cook when they physically are not; one has even injured herself trying to do so. Both were awarded high mobility, which correctly reflects their needs, but not given the care award. I don’t know why this is; perhaps the DWP’s internal rules have changed?

However coming back to your daughter, please bear in mind I am not an expert, but a couple of points: firstly, the criteria are for things like help (supervision or practical assistance) needed with tasks like dressing, eating, toileting, or taking medicine. Special food wouldn’t come under that unless it was prescribed, I guess – what does your GP have to say about your eligibility? and secondly, where children are concerned, the comparison is made to other children their own age. So for example even if your 11 year old daughter is unable to cook a main meal due to her impairment, the DWP might say that a normal 11 year old would not be expected to cook a main meal in any case so there is no difference. Do you see? That might sound like I’m unsympathetic and I am not – it’s unfair that you have to spend more money because of her impairment – but it sounds like the situation is not covered by the DWP rules.

In any case, knowing how unhelpful the DWP can be, they would probably argue that you should make bread from scratch and just give her a salad sandwich for each meal, or some other item to which she is not allergic. They will have an answer to everything and it’s up to you to prove why these things are not viable, which is why it’s better to have the face to face appeal where you can have a discussion, rather than the DWP making assumptions in your absence. Best of luck.

Just thought I’d mention a child with a peanut allergy requiring possible Epipen treatment needs supervision more than another child their own age in case of a reaction. ie lifesaving Epipen use and 999 phone call as they can be unconsious and cannot call for help themselves and could die. They can get a nut reaction from eating food even touched by a person with peanut traces on their hands. They need a straw if drinking squash in a pub in case their is nut traces on the glass – cannot for eg go to an indian restaurant. Need buffets with no nuts in bowels etc in case of transfer of nut traces on hands etc. Tables should be wiped with a clean cloth. It is very difficult. It takes ages to grocery shop checking packaging etc. They need two epipens usually to hand everywhere they go ie hobbies etc plus antihistamine usually. (Plus maybe the eczema cream and maybe asthma ventolin?) You have to cook from scratch more often ie cakes. A child like this might be hyperactive and best be eating organic food which is very
impratical. Plus the eczema care which can be life changing… depending on the severity. Nut allergy is life threatening and so is a huge responsibility which a child needs help with. Nuts can be in food you wouldnt imagine.

My DLA pays for:

– my cleaner, who comes once a week to do the big jobs that I am unable to do myself.
– petrol so I can get to the shops because it would be nearly impossible for me on foot, carrying bags etc.
– the extra grocery bills involved with buying ready meals and ready-made sauces and the like.
– the electricity used for charging my wheelchair, and my computer, without which some days I would interact with nobody.

I haven’t had it very long and it’s made such a huge difference to my life already. Long may it continue.

I am a full time working single parent who has brought up my son who has had allergies and asthma since birth.Previously I claimed DLA due to the fact he had severe excema that was treated with wep wraps and creams 2 hourly every day, for which I sourced excellent child care for whilst I was at work for peice of mind.This was as well as his asthma and allergies.Once my son’s excema dramatically improved i notified the DLA so my award was stopped as I did not want to be a drain on the system.As my son has become older (10 yrs old) He developed more serious allergies such as grass pollen , nut allergies (all) ,sesame and lupin flour.My son is also on very strong steroid inhalers everyday antihistamine and tablets.
The DLA claim was returned as they said he did not require extra supervision or care on a daily basis.!! It did not help when my GP said in her report he was a healthy boy.The reason my son is healthy is due to me being vigilant with his medication and his social life.This is called prevention.I have to search through foods in the supermarket and end up having to make meals from scratch or buy the more exspensive options.
Last year when the school closed in the middle of the day due to snow I had to arrange for my child to attend a child minder I use for after school hours as even though I had lots of offers from parents to pick up my son for me and take him sledging with all the other children I had to say no.This was because I needed my son to be in a safe enviroment with inhalers and epipen on hand .I also had to ensure that he would not eat anything that may cause anaphalactic shock or bring on a asthma attack.My son is at the age he wants to attend sleep overs and go camping,because of his condition neither of these are possible without special training for his medication.Camping is not an option for a holiday as is allergy to grass and pollen is severe so the more expensive options are the only safe ones.
If this does not mean that I have to put in place extra care to keep my son safe I do not know what does.

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