Wednesday, August 05, 2009

DLA and AA threat - Carers & Support Workers please note

Please see article HERE

A government green paper has revealed plans to stop paying disability benefits and hand the cash over to social services instead.

My own personal opinion:- I have absolutely no faith in the ability of Social Services to administer this fairly, wisely, promptly and correctly. Just think for a minute about Care in the Community. A great theory, but in practice it involves very little care and no Community. A friend who had two broken arms and a leg after a fall was offered an "urgent" assessment within 8 weeks! After a few more incidents of that sort, I have no faith in their ability to organise a party in a Brewery, much less to sort out care for the most vulnerable in Society who are not able to fight their own corner. I see delays, wrong assessments and people neglected at a time in their lives when they most need compassionate assistance given sensibly and with due regard to their dignity. Many people such as the elderly and people with Learning Difficulties or severe mental illness will not want to "beg" for the help they need due to their pride and dignity. And lets not forget our boys who have suffered catastrophic injuries in Afghanistan and Basra.
This hare brained scheme is a recipe for disaster.)

The Shaping the Future of Care Green Paper published by the DWP and the Department of Health on 14th July sets out government plans to get rid of attendance allowance and, depending on public reaction, also leaves the way clear to end the care component of DLA.

The consultation period for the green paper ends on 13 November. If there has been no significant outcry against the plans by then, it seems very likely that whichever party is in power after the next election will seize this opportunity to cut public spending by over a billion pounds a year.

Unfortunately, so far, that outcry has been very muted indeed, with only a few agencies – including RNIB and Age Concern and Help the Aged - speaking out. Shamefully, at least one major disability organisation, Disability Alliance, immediately announced its support for the green paper’s proposals.

This is in spite of the fact that a report in November 2009 by the Institute for Social and Economic Research warned that taking DLA and AA from claimants and making it part of a ‘personal budget’ administered by social services will leave millions of disabled people worse off and with less independence.

The lack of protest is caused at least in part by ministers deliberately choosing ambiguous terms for their plans. The green paper refers only to cutting ‘disability benefits, for example Attendance Allowance’. Some organisations with predominantly younger members clearly believe that because DLA isn’t specifically named, that therefore it isn’t in the firing line.

But they are forgetting all the deception and weasel words that have surrounded the introduction of employment and support allowance. For example, ministers said that ESA would be paid at a higher rate than incapacity benefit. In fact, it turned out that cuts in related premiums mean that many people are very much worse off on ESA than they would have been on incapacity benefits.

The reality is that if the government was intending to axe only AA it would have said so clearly, instead of deliberately and repeatedly using the term ‘disability benefits’ to cause uncertainty and confusion. Writing on Rightsnet, Neil Bateman, a respected welfare benefits consultant who also writes for Community Care magazine argued:

“Based on what I heard last week at the DWP Policy and Strategy Forum, both DLA and AA are in the DH's [Department of Health’s] sights and DWP are closely, involved in these developments.”

Even Paul Treloar, until recently Disability Alliance’s Director of Policy and now Head of Information at Gingerbread, wrote that:

“From what I understand at the moment, it is certainly attendance allowance that is being considered for the chop and reallocation to means-tested social care provision via local authorities - but given that the ultimate aim is to come up with a comprehensive and sustainable system of social care for all ages, it's difficult to see how DLA care component won't be similarly up for inclusion, in my opinion.”

Here at Benefits and Work, we’re convinced that the threat to DLA as well as AA is very real and the that time to act is short.

As a result, we’re launching our own campaign to save these vital benefits. We’re looking for one thousand people to sign up for our No More Benefits Cuts campaign. All you need to do is provide us with your email address and first name and be prepared to give up a few minutes of your time once a week to send an email or post on a forum.

Although we know it’s a very tough target, we won’t begin until we can get 1,000 people to sign up for the campaign, simply because we don’t believe that a smaller number will have any effect at all. In truth, many more will eventually be needed.

So, if you think that DLA and AA are benefits worth fighting for, then please fill in the boxes below.

You don’t need to be a claimant – you might be a carer or support worker
, for example – and you don’t need to be a subscribing member of Benefits and Work. You also don’t have to send any emails if you choose not to and you can remove yourself from the list at any time you wish. And, of course, we will never pass your details on to anyone else under any circumstances.

On the other hand, if you think that here at Benefits and Work we’re just being doom and gloom mongers and that only attendance allowance is really under threat then please consider this:

If we let them get away with this, if we all look the other way as one and a half million sick and disabled pensioners have their attendance allowance stolen from them and are plunged into deepest poverty, how long do you honestly think it will be before the government comes back to steal your benefits as well?

And who will you ask to speak out for you in the future, if you remain silent now, just because you don’t think this affects you?

It’s time to make your voice heard: sign up for the No More Benefits Cuts campaign now.

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