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Friday, 23 October 2009

New Labour Retreats on Proposals to Abolish DLA

But Attendance Allowance is Still Under Threat
As Disability Alliance Welcomes Government Proposals

A little while ago I blogged about the threat from New Labour to abolish Disability Living Allowance - a benefit that had been introduced by the Tories in 1992 - and which helps ensure that disabled people have just about enough to live on.

DLA was, of course, a tempting target to the scum of New Labour. It costs over £10 billion a year to run, money that could be better spent on welfare to bankers who can't get rid of their gambling habits. How dare the poor, just because there's something wrong with them, expect similar consideration. I can just hear you (& Brown) saying.

Well in a major victory today for campaigners, Blairite Health Secretary Andy Burnham ‘categorically ruled out’ any threat to DLA. We can take this with a pinch of salt, since there have also been references to existing recipients not losing out, which suggests that having failed to gather support for a full frontal attack on DLA, New Labour are considering using salami tactics to be rid of DLA, starting with new claimants first.

But the threat to Attendance Allowance, the Care element of DLA for those 65 and older, is immediate and it is extremely worrying. Unless a major campaign is launched to save AA, and useless charities like Disability Alliance forego their sweetheart relationship with New Labour and stop stabbing disabled people in the back, then AA will be the first go, after which it is logical that the care element of DLA will be next.

This is at a time when the various Disability Charities like Help the Aged, Age Concern and Disability Alliance have been in extensive ‘consultations’ with the government over this precise issue and there were reports that many of them had been bought off or won round.

Burnham said today:
One avenue I do want to close down, however, is the debate and controversy over Disability Living Allowance. We recognise that this is an important benefit for disabled people, and I can state categorically that we have now ruled out any suggestion that DLA for under-65s will be brought into the new National Care Service. This is because, whilst there will be increases in the numbers of disabled people of working age who need care, the majority of the people needing care in the future will be older people.

However, we do think there may be a case for bringing together elements of some disability benefits, such as Attendance Allowance, with social care funding, to create a new care and support system to provide for the needs of older and disabled people.
New Labour has abolished Incapacity Benefit, it is thought Industrial Injuries Benefit is also under threat and the prospect of being able to abolish Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance, costing over £10 billion per year was extremely attractive to a government which has established a welfare system for Bankers costing hundreds of billion of pounds.

New Labour’s continual shifts show that it has seriously mistimed its attempts ‘reform’ and ‘modernise’ and [ ] (fill in the New Labour buzz words most appropriate) of disability benefits. Its web site was absolutely inundated with critical comments about its proposals and its worth having a look at the comments. They really show the depth of peoples’ anger at the latest New Labour attack on the most vulnerable members of society.

It was on 29th September 2009 that at the Labour Party Conference, Phil Hope, when asked if he would abolish DLA after the election replied:
No. All the models that we have done have not included DLA. But if people were to make a case to integrate DLA into a comprehensive system, then I'm very happy to hear that case and have those arguments.

DLA is not under threat and people can be very happy.
However this was soon reversed when, on 13th October in the House of Lords, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Lord MacKenzie, stated in reply to a question by veteran disability campaigner, Lord Jack Ashley, regarding the threat to DLA that:
‘My Lords, I reiterate that no decision has been made on this matter—it is a consultation—and I acknowledge the benefit that many disabled people see in the current benefit structure, particularly DLA and attendance allowance. However, there is a case for bringing some disability benefits and the adult social care system together to provide better support through a new national care service. We should remember that the social care system and disability benefit system have in many ways developed in isolation from each other—they are separately assessed and have separate applications—and there may be benefits for individuals in bringing them together. However, we have made clear in the Green Paper that should we make a change in this direction, individuals receiving the relevant benefits at the time of the reform will continue to receive an equivalent level of support and protection.’
Yet on 4th September it was reported that the DWP had confirmed that DLA was under threat

“When asked if scrapping DLA was an option, a DWP spokesman said:
It depends on what people say in the consultation. We need to see what people say when they respond.
Likewise Phil Hope, the same Care Minister who had encouraged us to be happy, had previously refused to rule out the possibility of Disability Living Allowance being subsumed into the overall care budget, as some people fear it might be saying only that proposals have so far been modelled on doing this with attendance allowance.

Scab Role of Disability Charities
One thing that needs to be learnt quickly is that the disability charities cannot be relied upon to oppose government attacks on the disabled. Disability Alliance went as far as to actually 'welcome' the Government's Green Paper and to 'look forward' to working with the Government in implementing them! We know that these charities only use the disabled as a good funding stream, but even by the already abysmally low standard of ethics of these groups, this particular act of fawning was loathsome.

The main lesson to emerge from this is vigilance! New Labour or the Old Tories will be back with the same or similar proposals - however it is dressed up.

Tony Greenstein

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