The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been unable to produce any evidence to show that it has analysed the knock-on effects of its huge cuts to spending on disability living allowance (DLA).
Last week, a Disability Rights UK (DR UK) report, Impact Assessing the Abolition of Working Age DLA, said the government had ignored the effects on disabled people’s lives of cutting working-age DLA spending by 20 per cent, or £1.4 billion a year by 2015-16.
DR UK accused the government of an “irresponsible” failure to carry out a proper analysis of these knock-on effects, particularly on people’s ability to work, and their increased need for support from local councils and the NHS.
Both DR UK and the disabled Labour MP Dame Anne Begg – who chairs the Commons work and pensions committee – raised further concerns this week about the government’s failure to measure the wider impact of its programme of cuts.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) insisted that it did not agree with the findings of the report, or the methodology used by DR UK to produce its figures, which focus on DWP plans to cut spending and replace working-age DLA with a new personal independence payment (PIP).
A DWP spokesman argued that it could not yet say how many current DLA recipients would lose or gain from the reforms because this would “depend in part on where the benefit rates are set”, while he said that a higher proportion of claimants would probably receive the highest rates of PIP than under DLA.
But DWP has so far been unable to point to a single piece of evidence that it has assessed the wider impact of its DLA/PIP spending cuts.
Neil Coyle, DR UK’s director of policy and campaigns, questioned Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, about these failings at this week’s meeting of the all-party parliamentary disability group.
Miller said: “If [disabled people] are in fear of losing work then perhaps they should be looking to Access to Work (AtW) to give them support as well.”
And she said that the government would always produce “impact assessments” of its policies but that they had to be “about the impact that you can measure”.
Coyle said later that this was “quite a frank admission” by Miller that her government was not examining disabled people’s “equality of opportunity”.
He said Miller was “ignoring the real risk to disabled people in work”, and that there was no chance that the AtW budget could cope with the thousands of disabled people set to lose their DLA support.
Dame Anne – who is recovering in hospital in Scotland from a serious accident – said the government needed to look at the wider impact of its cuts, not just to DLA but also to spending on social care, employment and support allowance (ESA) and the Independent Living Fund.
She said that those losing DLA might also be losing ESA and council-funded social care, and there was an “urgent” need to investigate the impact of all of the cuts on disabled people.
Dame Anne added: “I think it is quite urgent that the government starts to quantify that because it could be that for some individuals and households all of the money they were depending on to allow them to live an independent life has been taken away because they lose all the different packages of support they were getting.”
Asked whether DWP could point to any evidence that it had assessed the knock-on effects of the DLA cuts, the DWP spokesman said only that PIP was “intended to go to those disabled people who are least able to live independently and need the most support” and that it does not expect an increased need for NHS or local authority support.
He added: “We will continue to work with the Department of Health and local authorities to understand the impacts and ensure that disabled people continue to have access to relevant support.”
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com