Many people across Europe have recoiled from harsh austerity policies, which are badly affecting the poorest in society as well as ordinary families. But the UK government is determined to take the cuts even further. Half a million people will lose disability living allowance, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has proudly announced.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he justified this by claiming that “the last benefit grew by something like 30 per cent in the past few years. It’s been rising well ahead of any other gauge you might make about illness, sickness, disability or, for that matter, general trends in society.” The government intends to introduce Personal Independence Payments, to far fewer people.
In reality, as campaigners have repeatedly explained, most of the rise results from demographic changes, as recipients of DLA get older. To quote ‘Responsible Reform’, published in January 2012 by Ekklesia and others (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/responsiblereformDLA ), and widely known as the Spartacus Report:
the evidence does not support a 30 per cent rise in DLA claims relevant to PIP as claimed by the Government throughout their consultation and Impact Assessments. The figure is actually 13 per cent. These figures were not made clear to parliamentarians as they debated the bill, despite a Government report being signed off in May 2010. Government are still using the 30 per cent figure despite admitting that it gives a “distorted view”.
The Spartacus Report goes on to scotch many other untruths about DLA.
Alarmingly, by the standards of UK Cabinet ministers, Iain Duncan Smith is a moderate: in recent weeks he was reported as opposing a further £10 billion worth of benefit cuts that Chancellor George Osborne wanted to inflict.
Repeating claims that have already been disproved and pushing through draconian measures based on these is unjust and irresponsible. It may also prove damaging to the government, as the reality of the cuts hits home and people realise this does not apply simply to ‘scroungers’ but also to them, their families and friends, and those they respect. As the Telegraph pointed out, stripping ex-soldiers who have lost limbs of their DLA may prove less than popular.
* Responsible Reform: The Spartacus Report - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/responsiblereformDLA 
* 500,000 to lose disability benefit - http://tinyurl.com/bv39fc5 
* Iain Duncan Smith: 'I’m not scared to light the fuse on disability reform’ - http://tinyurl.com/bmztys9 
* Disability benefit change needed, says Iain Duncan Smith - http://tinyurl.com/7tyz9mw 
(c) Savi Hensman is a respected commentator on social, political, welfare and religious issues. An Ekklesia associate, she works in the care and equalities sector.