Following on from last week's dramatic defeat in the House of Lords of three proposed welfare reform changes, the debate has now moved on to the reform of DLA. The Lords will be voting tonight on the plans, including an amendment by Baroness Grey-Thompson, of paralympic fame, that there would have to be a pilot before a new medical assessment of DLA is brought in. You can also read more about this at Sue Marsh's great blog. However, for the sake of the taxpayer and disabled people across the nation, DLA reform should be paused until two key issues are resolved.
1. Do not scrap DLA until the Government can clearly demonstrate that its desire to cut 20% from the budget will not leave genuinely sick people in need
Government statistics show the fraud of DLA is 0.5%, yet in its 'Budget 2010 policy costings document" the Government unveiled its intention to cut the number of those in receipt of DLA by 20% despite the fact it is yet to outline any eligibility criteria for PIP. This obviously raises serious concerns that genuinely ill people will be denied benefit solely to meet a pre-decided budget and that 'eligibility' for PIP will be driven by costs not by need. As Sue Marsh highlights in her blog, the current tabled legislation has so few details in it, which are meant to be decided by MPs under secondary legislation at a later date, that we do not know how these reforms will affect our lives, despite the fact it is being introduced NEXT YEAR.
2. Halt any introduction of PIP medical assessments until the financial and emotional catastrophe surrounding the similar medical for ESA is sorted out
The Government wishes to introduce a medical assessment for all recepients of PIP, despite the fact that a similar assessment process for Employment Support Allowance is currently in a huge mess. Society should be in uproar that 31 people have DIED while awaiting appeals against ESA medicals that found them fit to work.
40% of decisions to deny ESA are overturned at the appeal stage. Appeals have so far cost the taxpayer £80 million and the contract with private company Atos to manage these medicals is worth £801 million over ten years. Atos is yet to have any financial penalities imposed upon it for inaccurate reports resulting from the medicals it has conducted.
That's me done, hospital appointment later and typically the day I need to leave the house my lungs are behaving terribly. Fingers' crossed the vote in the House of Lords helps bring back common sense and support & respect for disabled people across the country.