Please see below a letter received by one of our supporters from her MP, Sheila Gilmore, who is a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee. This is a fabulously supportive letter and at the end she asks people who have recently been denied DLA when they renew their claim to get in touch with her. When you do contact Sheila, please make it clear you’re contacting her as a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, not as a constituency MP, thanks.
Responsible Reform: A Report on the proposed Changes to Disability Living Allowance
I have now read the above Report in full. It comprehensively demolishes the Coalition Government’s response to the initial consultation on DLA which began in December 2010. Many of us who read the Government’s response instinctively thought it didn’t ‘feel right’. Apart from anything else it was a very short document which used extensive quotes which this report shows were cherry picked and de-contextualised. This Report is the analysis which the Government should have published but didn’t.
The section on the reasons for the increase in the number of people receiving DLA is extremely useful. The Government, however, is still inclined to use the ‘inexplicable, unsustainable increase’ argument in the media and elsewhere. This report gives valuable ammunition with which to respond.
So where do we go from here? The Government is still relying on its belief that the majority of people support its reforms, and they continue to supply the press with anecdotes to fire up public anger. It looks as if they will seek to overturn even those modest amendments which have been successful in the House of Lords when the Bill returns to the House of Commons in early February. The parliamentary arithmetic means that they will succeed unless a considerable number of LibDems (or even Tories) break ranks to support these amendments.
There are practical criticisms to be pursued also. Some of the reforms will cost more than the Government is admitting. Once people start to experience the impact they will talk to friends and neighbours who will begin to realise that these ‘reforms’ could affect them, not just some anonymous ‘bunch of scroungers’. Often people with illnesses or disabilities, and their families, are just too busy ‘getting by’ that they see their situation as ‘just theirs’ and it is important that campaigners and politicians speak out for them. In one short street last weekend, out knocking on doors to speak to constituents, I met three families who were being directly affected by disability and its problems. They too need to be helped to ‘tell the story’ as it really is.
I am a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee which will shortly be publishing a Report on DLA/PIP. We had the Minister appear before us in December and what was striking was how much of the detail remained to be worked out. Further her position is contradictory. For example she made much of saying that one of the reasons for a new benefit and a new test was that there are many people (especially with mental health problems or learning difficulties) who do not currently qualify for DLA. She repeated this line of argument in a Radio 4 interview recently, giving the impression that many more people will get the new benefit. But she could not explain how that would square with making savings!
I am also encountering a fairly high number of people who are being refused DLA at renewal claim time. This of course gives the lie to the Government assertion that people get given the benefit regardless of any change in their situation. But more worrying I wonder if the DWP is under instruction to start ‘tightening up’ already. If more people are taken off benefit in the run up to PIP then the Government may be able to reduce the apparent number of ‘losers’ when the change takes place. If anyone has any experience/examples of this I would be particularly interested in hearing about them.
Sheila Gilmore MP