From the TUC

Boris is right about this

09 Jan 2012, by in Society & Welfare

There, I bet you didn’t expect to read that headline! But the revelation that London Mayor Boris Johnson submitted comments to the consultation on Disability Living Allowance reform prompts an unusual response.

It isn’t just the political frisson that comes from knowing that BoJo’s submission had to be feretted out with a FoI application, it’s the fact that he criticises the plans to replace DLA with Personal Independence Payment for exactly the right reasons:

  • Ending automatic awards for some groups – as the Mayor’s submission says,

Claims should be based on the needs and circumstances of the individual applying. Groups that are currently listed in the ‘automatic award section’ (Annex 1, page 37) already have to supply medical evidence satisfying specific medical criteria to receive DLA. Automatic entitlement should remain the same for these claimants.

  • It looks as if the switch from DLA to PIP is more about cutting costs than about supporting disabled people –

While some reform may be necessary and some proposals are positive in terms of simplifying the benefit and reducing bureaucracy, the Mayor is concerned that if the focus of this reform is solely efficiency driven government, may fail to ensure that the needs of disabled people are adequately met and many will suffer additional hardship and isolation.

Something got lost here (isn’t it terrible when bad things happen to good sentences?) but plainly Boris has come to the same conclusion as us.

  • The newspaper reports about fraud in disability benefits are extremely misleading –

Department of Work and Pensions statistics give the overall fraud rate for Disability Living Allowance as being less than 0.5%.

  • It takes 3 months’ disability to qualify for DLA; with PIP that rises to 6 months –

People who have fluctuating conditions can experience difficulties in being awarded DLA. The Mayor would call for the Government to retain the three-month qualifying period as the increase to six months will mean that people with fluctuating conditions have increased difficulty meeting the qualifying period. People with fluctuating conditions face the same barriers that all disabled face in relation to higher costs of living and DLA is essential to maintain a decent quality of life.

  • Most important of all, the Mayor’s submission criticises the key structural difference between Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment – the shift from three rates for the care component of the benefit to two. This will be used to cut the entitlement of people whose impairments may be less severe, but who still face high disability-related costs. And the Mayor is spot-on in explaining why this is a bad idea:

The Mayor does not support this change, as those on the lower rate care component may have additional costs as a result of their impairment but may lose their access to this benefit as part of the proposed removal under the reforms.

On issues like transport Boris Johnson gets a lot wrong, but here he makes a series of fair points (compare the TUC submission, which makes similar points, though at greater length). For more about the plans for Personal Independence Payment, have a look at the Responsible Reform report (which I posted about earlier today) and sign @patspetition to

Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.