A survey by Christian disability charity Livability shows that the removal of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for disabled people in care homes will have a devastating impact on their lives.
Livability surveyed the residents and staff of its UK care homes. It found that:
* 92 per cent of residents would have their quality of life affected: many would become prisoners of their care home as they can no longer afford the specialist transport they need, such as powered wheelchairs, accessible taxis and mobility cars
* Once the allowance is withdrawn many residents will be left with only around £22.00 a week to spend on transport, clothes, toiletries and living in general. Although Government wants to see more disabled people in employment, many have told the charity that losing the allowance means they will not be able to travel to and from their workplace anymore.
* As well as excluding many from the workplace, the cut will affect residents’ ability to conduct essential day to day activities such as: going to college, accessing day centres, visiting their families, seeing their GP and other healthcare professionals, socialising, voting, going on holiday.
* Although Government says local authorities should budget for transport when negotiating fees with care providers, few currently take into account the residents' mobility needs when determining fees. Many simply refuse to consider it. Given the drastic cuts to local authority funding announced in the recent spending review, it is unlikely that they will be able to make up the shortfall in funding.
* The policy of withdrawing the allowance from disabled people will remove their freedom to manage their own spending which is completely at odds with the Government’s agenda of implementing personal budgets.
Mike Smith, chief executive of Livability, commented: ''Livability is outraged by the announced cut in the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance for people who live in care homes."
He continued: "The allowance is crucial in making sure that disabled people are an integral part of their community and are able to do essential daily tasks such as visiting shops and banks, going to work or attending an educational course. Many disabled people already feel isolated and these cuts are a fresh blow to their independence."
"Do we really want to get back to the dark old days where disabled people were institutionalised and kept out of sight?" asked Smith.
He added: "The Government had said that the budget cuts would not affect the most vulnerable so we are very disappointed that they are targeting disabled people who are already some of the most disadvantaged members of our society.''
Livability cites Lynda, who is a resident at York House, a care home in West Yorkshire, works for the police and uses the allowance to fund her mobility car.
She explained: "I had to fight really hard to be in the workplace and live an independent life. If the mobility component ceased I would not be able to use that money to run my car and therefore my independence and lifestyle would deteriorate significantly. How can this be fair?’’
Patricia King, whose son and daughter-in-law are both disabled and live in a care home in West Sussex, is also deeply worried about the effect of the cuts.
She commented: "My son’s health will suffer if his mobility allowance is withdrawn. His medical notes clearly state that he needs regular and structured activity to remain healthy and keep his epilepsy stable. Transport is provided by his local authority to take him to a day centre but only for three days per week. For the remainder of the week he depends on his mobility allowance for access to activities and I fear the removal would result in stress, distress, more frequent seizures and consequent illness."
Ms King continued: "The proposal is unfair and unjust as it discriminates against the rights of disabled people who need fair access to the services and normal activities available to the non-disabled people. It leaves disabled people isolated from the rest of society, removing their personal freedom to be active in the community, to access shops, family, church, library, education and fitness centres. This would be a move into the dark ages, shutting the disabled away from the wider community.
"The Government argues that the aim is to bring care home residents into line with hospital in-patients, who lose access to the mobility benefit. Livability argues that there is no comparison between disabled people living in care homes and patients in hospital. A residential care home is a disabled person’s permanent home and, like anybody else, they want to have a life outside their home and access education, training, work and leisure activities. Livability is urging the Government to abandon his proposal and will continue to campaign until the decision is overturned," she said.
More information on Livability: www.livability.org.uk
With acknowledgements to Independent Catholic News (http://www.indcatholicnews.com/).