It’s a start, but nowhere near enough.
Health secretary Andy Burnham has said that he has ‘heard the concerns and worries about disability living allowance’. As a result, he has announced that:
“I can state categorically that we have now ruled out any suggestion that DLA for
under-65s will be brought into the new National Care Service.”
Good news indeed . . . for some . . . for the moment.
But definitely not for the one and a half million people who depend on AA. Nor for the for the three quarters of a million people aged 65 and over who receive DLA. Not even for the 400,000 DLA claimants currently aged between 60 and 64, many of whom will have reached the age of 65 by the time labour’s proposed National Care Service is introduced. Because, of course, DLA is not just paid to people under 65. You have to make your claim before you are 65, but you can then go on claiming indefinitely if your needs do not change. Unfortunately, many organisations who should know better seem to have forgotten that – perhaps just as the government hoped.
Because Mr Burnham made no secret about why he made this announcement: he wants to shut people up. He said in his speech, given at a conference in Harrogate on 22nd October and also published on the Big Care Debate website:
“One avenue I do want to close down, however, is the debate and controversy over Disability Living Allowance.”
In that ambition, he seems to have succeeded, at least so far as some disability charities are concerned. Immediately following Burnham’s speech, Disability Alliance sent out a press release stating that:
“. . . the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) benefit will not be affected by Government plans to merge some benefits with social care funding . . . Andy Burnham’s announcement will reassure disabled people that DLA is safe – for now at least.”
The Disability Charities Consortium told the media:
“This represents a real victory for disabled people who felt very strongly that the DLA should be retained and made their collective voice heard on this issue. ”
Macmillan Cancer Support also issued a press release saying that:
“Whilst we are pleased the Government has said Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will not be used to meet the shortfall in social care funding, we remain deeply concerned that Attendance Allowance (AA) is still under threat.”
But that isn’t what Andy Burnham said at all. He said DLA for under 65’s is not being considered. This was echoed by Yvette Cooper MP, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions who told a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on ME on 21st October that DLA for people of ‘working age’ is not under review. It was also made clear by Burnham that there will be no transitional protection of existing awards for current claimants. Instead, ‘an equivalent level of support’ will be provided by your local authority.
Burnham’s announcement seems to have had the desired effect, however – the ‘debate and controversy’ over DLA appears to be over as far as some disability charities are concerned. Yet, in a little over two weeks time the deadline for submissions on the
green paper ends.
It’s vital that the case for saving DLA for all claimants is still made. Only now there is a real worry that not only have the disability charities relaxed, but also that Burnham will claim that because 3,000 submissions to the Big Care Debate were made before his announcement that DLA for under 65s is safe, they should mostly be discounted.
If you don’t want the government to get away with closing down ‘the debate and controversy over Disability Living Allowance’ there are things you can do.
Contact disability groups you have a connection with and warn them that they still need to respond to the green paper in relation to both DLA and AA.
Respond to the Care Green paper yourself, again if necessary, making it clear that you are aware that DLA for under 65s is not under consideration and giving your views on axing AA and DLA for people aged 65 and over.
Rouse people to sign the No 10 petition, which is gathering real momentum again: it now has over 19,000 signatures and is at number 8 out of over four and a half thousand petitions on the site. Not bad going for a petition that has been running for less than two months.
Tell your MP what you think or, better still, go and visit them and tell them face-to-face.
One final thought. The revelation that the government is considering slashing the income of 2.5 million older disabled claimants was made by Andy Burnham in a keynote
speech last week. The subject of that speech?
Outlawing ageism in the NHS.
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