This post was cross-posted to FlashSays.com
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.”
“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.