22 October 2010 The cuts and their impact
Since the emergency budget in June, and possibly beforehand, some politicians and sections of the media have been making statements that could confuse and encourage people into believing that Disability Living Allowance is connected to a person's income or means.
It is not, and up until this week DLA has been available to any disabled person to help cover the extra cost of disability. This could be used for extra personal care or to help pay for the added cost of not being able to use public transport.
This confusion could be forgiven due to the struggle most non benefits experts have comprehending or negotiating the jargon filled system. However, a cynic might argue that this confusion has been caused to further deceive the public and ease the way for changes to this benefit.
Maybe they have succeeded, as the first chip to be chiseled away from the DLA block was announced on Wednesday when the removal of the higher rate of the mobility component of DLA for people living in residential care was announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review. By doing this the government has made the assumption that disabled people in residential care don't want to go to the shops, visit friends or family and or just leave place that they live. Either this or life as a disabled person has just got cheaper.
Equally worrying was the announcement that disabled people will lose their benefits and the recognition of their previous contribution to the economy after one year of being out of work. From now onwards if you are placed in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA and have a working partner, assets or savings and have worked in the past, you will have just one year to either find a new job or lose your entitlement to state benefits.
The fact you have paid taxes and made National Insurance Contributions throughout your working life will count for nothing and you will lose your independent right to the benefit, leaving you reliant on a partner or the sale of an asset to cover your financial loss.
This is a depressing and worrying piece of news for young disabled people like many Trailblazers who have studied hard, racked up debt at university and found jobs in a market that is seriously stacked against them. Their determination to work will in the future be repaid by only 12 months' recognition of the difficulties in finding work as a disabled person, followed by the removal of a benefit.
One member of the Trailblazers network currently works for a care agency. She moved across the country to find work. After six months she has still not been able to find accessible rented accommodation in the town where she works. This means that she is currently spending a significant proportion of her salary on bed and breakfast accommodation. In the future, if she had a partner who worked and her condition worsened, meaning she had to give up her job, she would no longer be entitled to an income replacement benefit. This just doesn't seem fair, and work for her may never end up paying.
Trailblazers are calling on the government to rethink this policy to ensure that the burden of the public debt does not punish disabled people who have fought hard to find and retain work in an environment littered with obstacles to paid employment for disabled people.
We are also calling on employers to make adjustments to their buildings and have flexible working policies. This way, disabled people will find it easier to stay in work. With the policies outlined on Wednesday, there is real danger that hard working disabled people and their families could easily end up worse off than if they had never worked at all.