London Mayor Boris Johnson has attacked the government over its reforms to Disability Living Allowance, which campaigners say are disastrous.
The details of the Conservative Mayor's negative response to the government's DLA consultation have been revealed by the Left Foot Forward blog and the Daily Telegraph - ahead of a report to be published on Monday 9 January by disability activists.
The report, entitled 'Responsible Reform', is being backed by a range of NGOs, including the Disability Alliance, Mind and Ekklesia.
In his reponse to the government, Mr Johnson directly takes on the ‘benefit scrounger myth’. He argues that ministers should not impose penalties on those who have claimed incorrectly.
Johnson says: “The government proposes imposing penalties if disabled people do not inform the government in changes in their circumstances. However, the Department of Work and Pensions statistics give the overall fraud rate for Disability Living Allowance as being less than 0.5."
He continues: “For those with fluctuating conditions asking them to report every change to their condition would prove very stressful. Rather than penalties the government should issue very clear guidance about what constitutes change and in relation to which conditions.”
The mayor also worries that moving children from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independent Payment: “Could potentially condemn the parents of disabled children and young people, and the children themselves to a life of financial hardship rather than financial assistance.”
Johnson also argues that:“The three-month benefit qualification period [for Disability Living Allowance] should be retained, rather than extending this to six months as proposed” and he is “concerned about the government suggestion to remove automatic entitlement [to Disability Living Allowance] for certain groups. Claims should be based on the needs and circumstances of the individual applying.”
The mayor refuses to support changing from a three-tier system of benefits to two, saying: “as those on the lower rate care component may have additional costs as a result of their impairment but may lose their access to this benefit as part of the proposed removal under the reforms.”
Mr Johnson also objects to the new system of face-to-face assessments with healthcare professionals previously unknown to the claimant, declaring: “Face-to-face meetings with a healthcare professional could prove difficult and inappropriate for an individual who may have difficulty with social contacts such as those with autism, or for those with an intellectual or mental health disability.
He adds: “Other circumstances where difficulties may arise is if an efficient interpretation service is unavailable for deaf people.”
Damningly for the coalition government, Mr Johnson even questions the motivation behind the reforms.
He says: “While some reform may be necessary and some proposals are positive in terms of simplifying the benefit and reducing bureaucracy, the Mayor is concerned that if the focus of this reform is solely efficiency driven government, may fail to ensure that the needs of disabled people are adequately met and many will suffer additional hardship and isolation.”
* The full Mayoral response on DLA can be seen here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/77329822/Mayoral-Submission
* Left Foot Forward: http://www.leftfootforward.org/