Thursday, 30 September 2010

The real difference made by Disability Living Allowance

This post was cross-posted to

It seems that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) can be quite misunderstood. Even government ministers seem to get confused, sometimes referring to it as an “out-of-work” benefit. (It isn’t.) And now DLA, along with many other essential benefits for disabled people, is under threat. Here are a few basic facts, and an illustration of why DLA can be critically important, in the words of those who receive it.

DLA is not means-tested. It is a benefit which exists to compensate the disabled person for the extra costs of living they incur compared to non-disabled people – many examples of which are given below. It’s paid regardless of whether the recipient is in work – in fact, in some cases DLA is crucial in helping the recipient get to or continue in work. There are two parts to the benefit – one covering care needs, and the other relating to mobility. The money is paid directly to the disabled person for them to use as they need.

The government has already said that, although fewer than 1% of claims are thought to be fraudulent, they intend to reduce claimants by 20% via new medical tests. Read the comments below and see if you can imagine one in five of these people having to manage without it. The government may not wish to pay them, but their needs will not disappear.

I spoke to a variety of people who, like me, receive Disability Living Allowance. Here are a selection of comments illustrating its importance.

Education and work:

“DLA means I can sustain myself enough to study. It also pays for taxi fares to university.”

“I damage clothes more quickly than other people because I fall over and sometimes have to crawl; DLA means I can buy new clothes and maintain a professional appearance in my work.”

“I spend my DLA on my education – I need a room on-campus (which is more expensive than alternatives), photocopying and books. I have mental health issues, and that course literally saved my life.”

Food and bills:

“My DLA is spent on food – from ready meals to takeaways – because I’m not able to cook for myself. Without DLA I’d rely on friends to cook for me or I’d simply go without meals.”

“I have extra costs such as delivery charges from supermarkets, but also I can’t buy the cheapest food because stores like Lidl and Aldi don’t deliver. So my shopping costs are more than for someone who could manage to get to the shops themselves.”

“I am so tired from my job that when I get home I can’t make food for myself. Takeaways are expensive and they have a minimum order price. DLA covers the difference.”

“My electricity costs more than most people because I need the heating on to reduce my pain levels, and I need to recharge my wheelchair. DLA helps pay for the difference in my bills.”


“All of my mobility allowance goes to pay for a Motability car – it’s the only way I could ever afford one. But there are still other costs like petrol, so some of my care allowance has to go towards that, because I have to get around.”

“If my money was stopped I would not have a car and would be stuck at home all day while my partner was at work.”

“Until my DLA came through I had to cancel hospital appointments because I couldn’t justify paying a taxi fare except in emergencies. This continued for several months...”

“Without DLA I would literally be house-bound. I wouldn’t be able to get out at all.”


“My DLA gives me back some control, it’s the one thing that doesn’t rely on someone else being willing to help me.”

“When my partner and I lived apart, I qualified for a lot more benefit, free prescriptions and so on. Now we live together, his job means that we get less money overall. This means that my DLA is even more important – so I have some income of my own.”

“I have a cleaner who comes every week – she does tasks that I can’t manage myself. It gives me pride that I can manage my responsibilities even if I’m not doing them myself.”

“The most important thing that DLA pays for is my independence. It means I am more equal to my partner and don’t have to keep asking them for money. It means I can pull my weight.”

“I’m recovering from mental health problems and I’m rebuilding my life. I use my DLA money for things like basic furniture and decorating costs. It’s providing much needed support in many areas. I also use it for help with transport. Otherwise I would be in debt.”

And finally...

“If I didn’t have DLA I simply wouldn’t cope. I have cut back on everything as it is, we don’t have any luxuries, so there is no room for me to exist with less.”

“Without DLA I would not manage at all. I would be forced to bed and to beg for assistance from my loved ones, but this position is unsustainable...”

Those last two comments are frightening but demonstrate how tightly many disabled people have to manage their finances and how close to the edge they are operating. They simply cannot imagine a way to cope if this money was taken away. Essentials such as meals, prescriptions or heating would be at risk if DLA was cut back, and disabled people could be stuck at home, unable to access jobs or education.

Everyone I heard from relied on their DLA payment for independence and quality of life; it was as simple as that.

It is critical that this benefit is protected in its current state and that the government’s proposal to reduce the number of claimants by 1 in 5 is robustly opposed. The treasury may need to make cuts, but when it comes to Disability Living Allowance there is simply no room to manoeuvre.


  1. Also for parents who receive DLA for their child I use it, or will, to work part-time instead of full time as my daughter requires far more attention and time to teach her things. Also having a child requiring non typical responses is tiring and I need to work part-time to have some energy to give her. It's not because I'm a scrounger who doesn't like working.

  2. They have already stopped my DLA and all other benifits. I can't get medication now, this has went on for months. All because i was to ill to attend assessment. 5 months it's took to see specialist doctor and now numerous weeks in between appointments. Simply can't go on like this. What have i been living on during that time you may ask? The small amount of savings i had put aside for my children and coppers i had put in a jar. I am imprisoned in my home waiting to die. Simple as that.

  3. Anonymous, I am so sorry to hear that. Can your MP help? Last time I had problems with benefits (my DLA was taken by the council, who wrongly thought I had been overpaid housing benefit many years previous) I wrote to my MP, who wrote to the DWP and council, and my payments resumed. It was never resolved as such, but the council did agree to stop taking my money once they received a letter on House of Commons notepaper...

    The other alternative is finding a group to advocate for you. In my area we have a Disability Action group. Is there anything like this near you?

    Please don't accept this. I realise you probably don't have much energy to fight, but if nothing else write to your MP and ask him to intervene. What have you got to lose?

    Wishing you well.

  4. I am about to face a DLA renewal and the problem I face is that my DLA is so completely pivotal in my life that I cannot remember how bad it was without it. Because I have my DLA I look not very sick now, ironically meaning I don't have all the required doctors letters and other evidence of crippitude that is going to be necessary to score myself a DLA renewal.

    DLA is a non-profit benefit, it looks like lots to people who claim fraudulently, but my DLA income is dwarfed by my disability equipment bill. Ask those who think DLA is a lot of money how much they have spent on wheelchairs in their lifetime. I've spent over £13,000.

    Higher Rate Care, if one can ever get it, pays for the admittedly (by them) essential 24 hours of care at the rate of 42p per hour. Social services charges £16.60 per hour for this unskilled (in my case) labour. Doesn't really turn a profit, does it? Lucky that the worst that happens to me without overnight care is that I dislocate my knee and cannot roll over to summon help and just have to lie still in pain until someone with keys comes around. We wouldn't want to throw good taxpayers' (like me!) money at that, would we?

  5. @roserodent I have not been through a DLA renewal yet (mine's scheduled for 2012) but going on what I know I'd say the important thing is to explain, in detail, why your DLA is pivotal, what it pays for and what you would be unable to do without it.

    Also, some suggestions for evidence you do have that you might not have thought of.

    I imagine you might have some proof of the money you have spent on equipment e.g. bank statements, receipts? With overnight care, are there any records/reports on how they help you - do they write notes at the end of a shift, for example?

  6. i have really bad epilepsy (had it for 19 years) sent off the disabilty living allowance form and within 9 DAYS of sending it off was refused
    i was getting working tax credits (IVE BEEN WORKING PART TIME FOR 14 YEARS) but because i wasnt getting d.l.a they stopped my benefits
    and want 2 years benefit money back and they want it back in 2 weeks, no one ever told me i needed d.l.a, so theyve made the mistake by giving me it, and im the one who whos getting punished for working now wth a disability because i cant work any longer than 16 hours,
    ive sent an email to nick clegg and my local mp
    and had no reply
    so much for being disable trying to make a life for yourself

  7. I have fibromyalgia and inflammatory polyarthritis, I work part time I was on dla and mobility. I have since been refused, my doctor did not fill the form in properly. I had a medical service dr assess me, he did not assess me on stairs etc. he filled form in with out asking me the questions i saw the form he told me to shush two times I complained and was told he refutes the allegation. I need the money for taxies to work, clothes with out zips buttons shoes that slip on. heating funds I cant keep my own body heat in, memory foam matteress i cant sleep at night, by the way this was the best thing i ever bought. taxies for hospital, medication I take 19 tabs a day £50 per monthI dont earn enought to live on , I have to pay rent council tax bus pass, my condition has got worse, I have to wear a guard in my mouth my jaw locks and shoots out at night i bite my tongue, I have beeen referred to a pain clinic. shall i kill my self now before the stress does