London Mayor Boris Johnson is just one of thousands of individuals and organisations whose overwhelming opposition to axing disability living allowance has been grossly misrepresented by the government in an effort to force through the highly controversial change.
This is the claim made by an ad hoc group of disabled campaigners in a highly detailed report ‘Responsible reform’ released today. If true it could lead to legal challenges to the welfare reform bill and to questions as to whether conservative ministers deliberately misled parliament. The authors of the report are calling for a pause of at least six months before legislation introducing PIP is voted on, in order to allow the views of disabled people to be properly taken into account. They are also calling for help from Benefits and Work readers.
In December 2010 the government began a consultation on reforming DLA by replacing it with PIP. Over 5,000 individuals and more than 500 organisations took part in the consultation.
In April 2011 Iain Duncan Smith, secretary of state for work and pensions, published ‘Government’s response to the consultation on Disability Living Allowance reform’ with an introduction written by Maria Miller, minister for disabled people. The document claimed to outline the responses to the consultation and the coalition’s reaction to them.
However, disabled campaigners who obtained copies of all the organisational responses using the Freedom of Information Act claim that the government document deliberately covered up the overwhelming opposition to most elements of the proposed reforms.
For example, the ‘Responsible reform’ claims that:
“98 per cent of respondents objected to the qualifying period for benefits being raised from 3 months to 6 months.”
However, the government document merely states that:
“Some organisations were in favour of our proposal to extend the Qualifying Period from three months to six months, before benefit would be paid . . . However, many organisations and some individuals were not in favour of this”
If it is true that there were 2% of organisations in favour versus 98% against then the use of the terms ‘some’ versus ‘many’ appears to be a very deliberate attempt to hide the virtually unanimous animosity to this proposal. A fairer picture would have been given by phrases such as ‘very few’ organisations were in favour whilst ‘an absolutely overwhelming majority’ were against.
Boris Johnson was very definitely against this proposal, arguing that:
“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.”
In relation to reducing the rates of care from three to two, ‘Responsible reform’ claims that 92% of organisations opposed the idea. However, the government document claims that:
‘The majority of organisations welcomed the move to new, broader definitions of the daily living and mobility components . . . Some organisations commented that, by raising the threshold at which an individual would qualify for benefit, those with some, but not significant, support needs would be disproportionately affected . . .’
Again, Boris Johnson was unequivocally against the idea, pointing out that:
“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.”
Disabled campaigners claim that, again and again, throughout their consultation response, the government misrepresents the strength of opposition to their plans and seeks to mislead MPs and peers.
They also claim that the report uses misleading statistics to make it appear as if the number of people receiving DLA is rising uncontrollably.
Benefits and Work is sending out this single issue newsletter to coincide with the release of the report because its authors have made a special plea to our readers:
“Time is running out to save DLA. We urgently need Benefits and Work readers to contact their MP and ask them to read this report. Ask them to give you a response, reminding them that they have a duty to you as a constituent to respond.
“Many thanks, and we sincerely hope that the report demonstrates not only the devastation that reducing and altering DLA would bring to many people, but that the reasons given for implementing PIP are unsound.”
You can read this article online and comment on it here.
You can download the report from the Benefits and Work website.
You can read a copy of the full press release sent out by the campaigners here.
You can get updates on the campaign from the Diary of a Benefits Scrounger.
You can read Boris Johnson’s submission to the DLA reform consultation here.
A copy of the ‘Government’s response to the consultation on Disability Living Allowance reform’ can be downloaded from this link.
Campaigners are using the hashtag #spartacusreport and asking supporters to tweet “I support the #spartacusreport”