AN ADVICE service for disabled people is concerned that benefit cuts risk pushing those with disabilities into greater isolation and poverty.
DIAL House in Hamilton Place, Chester, is worried about a government move to replace Disability Living Allowance, currently claimed by 17,690 people in West Cheshire at an annual cost of £67.9m, with a Personal Independence Payment.
DIAL general manager Keith Roper said: “We are concerned that moves to cut 20% from the budget, reduce the number of people claiming support and to scrap the mobility component of DLA for people living in residential care are being driven by the need to save money rather than the needs of people.
“The proposals risk leaving disabled people, who are already disadvantaged, facing less choice and independence, greater isolation and being pushed further into poverty.”
Mr Roper said the Government understandably talked in terms of billions of pounds being spent on welfare benefit but the average DLA payment to people in Cheshire West & Chester was currently £73 per week.
“This money is very often a lifeline that allows a disabled person to do everyday things that most people take for granted,” he added.
DIAL House also shares the concerns of many of its clients about proposals to introduce a new DLA assessment process with a focus only on those with the highest ‘medical need’.
This follows recently introduced changes to assessments for Incapacity Benefit and Employment Support Allowance resulting in disabled people ‘being deemed ‘fit for work’ – often inappropriately’.
Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, said: “I want to reassure people reading this in Chester and West Cheshire that this government is absolutely committed to supporting disabled people.Š
“We are more determined then ever to help disabled people live independent lives and we continue to spend more than £40 billion a year on disabled people and services – this includes £12bn on Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which is more than the entire transport budget for this country.ŠŠ
“But we also need to face up to the fact that the current benefit system is not always reaching those who need it most.Š
“It can’t be right, for instance, that more people get £51.40 per week, the higher rate mobility, of DLA for drug and alcohol abuse than for blindness.”