29 September 2009

The Big Care Debate has published its first blog entry in two months in an attempt to stem the outpouring of hostile responses provoked by the threat to AA and DLA.

David Behan, the Director General of Social Care at the Department of Health, published a blog post last week entitled ‘Improving benefits for everyone’.

In his post he says that the site has received well over 3,000 responses, but adds that:

“Many of the responses we have received are passionate in their defence of the current system, spelling out how a large number of people rely on Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance to maintain their quality of life.”

Which is something of an understatement. In truth, well over 90% of the responses relate to this issue and virtually all of them are exceedingly hostile to the green paper.  It’s become something of a public relations disaster.

Mr Behan goes on to say that many of the responses are ‘from a lot of working age people who are worried that their DLA will be taken away from them.’

He goes on to try to reassure these people by stating that:

“The DLA did not feature in any of our modelling when we wrote the Green Paper. The Impact Assessment shows that we were looking at Attendance Allowance.”

Aside from the fact that we’re a little concerned that somebody who should be familiar with the issue of disability benefits would refer to DLA as ‘the DLA’, Benefits and Work was little under whelmed by this reassurance.

For a start, it can be of no possible consolation to AA claimants.

But, equally importantly, it fails to point out the fact that, aside from age limits, the qualifying criteria and payment rates for AA are exactly the same as those for middle and higher rate care component of DLA.  Given that there is no suggestion that the mobility component of DLA is under threat, that means that a financial model of the effects of axing AA is also likely to work exceedingly well as a financial model for axing DLA - as long as you adjust to take into account those claimants receiving the lower rate of the DLA care component.

In other words, at this early stage, you can probably use AA to formulate policy for a system that removes DLA care without taking the time, trouble and political risk of also openly modelling DLA. 

If DLA truly were not under any threat, it would have been very easy for Mr Behan to write:

“We have also heard from a lot of working age people who are worried that their DLA will be taken away from them.  Please don’t worry, DLA will not be affected by these proposals.”

Mr Behan didn’t say that.  He didn’t say anything remotely like it and here at Benefits and Work we hope that ‘a lot of working age people’ will continue to provide responses in relation to both DLA and AA.

You can read Mr Behan’s blog entry here.



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