This post is rambling, but that can't be helped. There's just too much to cover.
One Month Before Heartbreak is a blogswarm to try and raise awareness about the consultation on DLA reform, which ends on 14th February. I'd like to encourage anybody, disabled or otherwise, who is bothered by these reforms, to join in.
This post from the Broken of Britain explains a bit more about it, or if you're feeling brave you can download the official DWP consultation document from the DWP website.
The short version is: DLA is a benefit paid to long-term disabled people with significant care and/or mobility needs. It is paid regardless of whether or not a person is working, in recognition of the fact that the expenses of disability are non-negotiable - to give just one example, a working disabled person who finds their budget is tight is probably unable to save money by choosing to get rid of their car and walk places.
The coalition government intends to rebrand DLA as PIP (Personal Independence Payment). As part of this rebranding exercise, the qualifying criteria will be shifted with a stated aim of reducing the caseload by 20%.
As we've looked at before, benefit fraud is only around the 1% mark, and for DLA it's even lower, at just 0.5%.
This means that there's about 19% of the caseload (that's 570,000 people) who are genuinely disabled - not just that, but disabled enough to pass the already stringent tests - and legitimately claiming help with the unavoidable costs associated with disability, who are suddenly going to find themselves up a rather nasty creek.
We don't know who's going to be "safe". The document talks about continual reassessment (at great expense to the taxpayer and great profit to ATOS) even for people with lifelong and incurable conditions.
It talks about withdrawing support from people who use wheelchairs independently on the basis that since the DDA, the whole country must now be fully accessible to wheelchair users and thus there is no additional expense and support is no longer needed. The fact that many of those wheelchairs were purchased using DLA is not properly addressed.
It talks about introducing not just more restricted residency rules, but also rules about "presence" (ie attending regular meetings at the Jobcentre, a far from easy task for a disabled person) to bring it in line with other income replacement benefits and encourage people into work. Except DLA is not a sodding income replacement benefit and has bog-all to do with whether or not a person is working! And what if you are working? Will you be expected to take time off to attend your DLA interviews? Will your employer be expected to just suck it up that you are unavailable?
How am I affected personally? If it hits me, I will no longer have any personal income beyond my part-time self-employed earnings, and as I've already admitted, my business income after business expenses does not cover even the most minimal costs of living. Without DLA, not only will I be dependent on Steve to meet our combined bills like rent, council tax and electricity - I will have to go to him with my hand out for most of my clothes, and when I need a taxi to a medical appointment, or to buy a new prescription prepayment card, or replace my mobility aids.
That's not the point, though. At least there is someone in my life who will, in a crisis, fund the essentials of life. Many people are not so fortunate. They don't have anyone to help them out, or worse, the person who helps them may easily become resentful of the extra costs and start withdrawing support.
The single thing I have done in my life which has saved the Great British Taxpayer the most money was getting together with Steve. All of a sudden, they no longer had to pay my housing or council tax, and the care I was deemed to need was greatly lessened by the fact I was living with a non-disabled adult. Then, thanks to the support and stability Steve gave me, I was at last able to get a part time job, which meant I was no longer claiming Incapacity Benefit or Income Support, either, which meant I was no longer entitled to free prescriptions or dental care, nor could I claim back costs of transport to medical or DWP appointments, and of course I was now paying in tax and NI. I still cost the system money, true, in the form of my DLA, the Access to Work scheme, and my little bit of social care. But this is much, much less than it cost to keep me alive as a single person.
I would not have been able to develop this relationship and thus become a working member of society without the independence DLA gives me.
It's not something that's going to persuade the coalition, but the fact remains - a non-disabled person might willingly move in with a disabled partner who is independent and only increases the food bill, but they're not so likely to take on someone with higher than normal expenses and no income at all.
I apologise again for the disjointed nature of this post, the probably appalling grammar, and the fact it's a bit late. As usual for winter, I don't have an excess of spoons right now and I'm using up most of the energy I do have on frivolities like eating, washing, work, and my duties as an employer of PAs (more on that another time).