One Month Before Heartbreak – Blog swarm contribution
Disability Living Allowance – a personal view 17/01/11
This is my first ever blog post and my contribution to a campaign to raise awareness of the proposed changes to Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Please excuse my lack of formatting. I will improve!
My knowledge of DLA
In 1995, I became a Welfare Rights Advisor for Great Yarmouth Borough Council. It was a very rewarding job and I felt I was really helping people. The officers at Great Yarmouth Housing Dept. had just collated statistics that showed it to be one of the most disadvantaged and deprived areas in the country, with very high numbers of people on benefits; without work, as single parents, or with long term illnesses. We had a very busy ‘drop-in’ service but we were virtually always able to help people in some way, sometimes we could make a huge difference to their lives. Often by helping them to claim DLA.
I learnt about DLA as part of my training. It was a benefit that the public didn’t really seem to know about and that the government didn’t shout about. The forms used to apply for it, are very long and need to be filled in very frankly and without making any assumptions on the part of the assessor. During my time there, I probably completed 600+ applications for people with a huge range of illnesses and disabilities.
DLA is a benefit that can make a huge impact on people’s lives. As well as the weekly payment, it can passport you to increased payments from other benefits such as housing benefit and income support. People can also gain access to free transport, blue badges, a car leasing scheme (Motability), and many other concessions. At the time, it could be backdated, leading to some payments of thousands of pounds.
My first experiences, were helping people claim under the ‘Special Rules’. This meant that the form does not have to be fully completed as the person is expected to live less than 6 months. I visited many people in their homes; usually these people had cancer and had been working before the illness struck. They had lost their health and income and were understandably often struggling to cope.
I didn’t always find out if people had received an award or not. I remember an elderly man who couldn’t read or write. He had been a builder’s labourer all his life and this had taken a severe toll on his health in old age. He brought the letter to me to read and sobbed when I told him it had been awarded.
In 2005, I found myself completing a DLA form for my son, who has Dravet Syndrome. A neurological disease that causes difficult to control epilepsy and profound and multiple learning difficulties. I intend to write about this experience on another blog post.
The proposed changes and PIP
The Government proposes to revise DLA into a new benefit called Personal Independence Payments (PIP). I read the consultation document last December and I became more and more worried and angry. It is obvious from the document that the proposals primary aim is to reduce the amount of money given to people with disabilities.
They will increase the qualifying time for 3 to 6 months and want to reduce the budget by 20%. The changes seem to be about looking for ways to exclude people. I invite you to read it yourself or this summary by rich_w and respond to the consultation. The cost of living with a disability is much higher than many people realise, people with disabilities are poorer, far less able to find work and face greatly reduced opportunities in our society.
We need to contribute to the consultation so that the government knows it cannot make the lives of people with disabilities more difficult.
Co-founder and MD “Trabasack”