At the moment, it's me that's confused. You see, the media still report on Disability Living Allowance as if it has some kind of relationship to whether the recipient can work or not. But that's not the case at all!
In fact, as you will see from my earlier article "The real difference made by Disability Living Allowance", often DLA is what enables people to stay in work - perhaps it is spent on taxis to the office, or on food or a cleaner (because the disabled person either has enough energy to go to work, or to cook and clean for themself, but not both).
So why does the BBC report on possible changes to DLA in the same breath as a reference to "work"? Is it the journalist at fault, or (more likely in my opinion) they are simply repeating the words of various MPs. Either way, I'd like to see some clarity over this issue, because at the moment I am confused by what is being reported.
In this article, about the most costly UK benefits, the BBC reports that 'Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith recently said the benefit would remain separate from "universal credit", with carers free to take part-time or short-term work without losing their benefits.'
This is good news - the last thing we want is for DLA to be sucked into a credit system which pays out based on your ability to take a job - although the reference to carers being able to work is a little confusing. I presume this refers to unpaid carers, who currently claim Carer's Allowance for looking after a relative, but it's hard to be sure.
The article continues: 'There are no plans to reduce DLA, but a strict new medical assessment is due to be introduced from 2013 to help claimants "reduce dependency and promote work".'
Now I really am confused. As I reported earlier, sometimes DLA is spent in a way which will enable the disabled person to stay in employment, but it is actually paid because of needs which are completely irrelevant of the recipient's working status. After all, your ability to wash yourself, or to walk (to take two simple examples) does not change because you do, or do not have a job.
The government has already said that the new medical test is intended to reduce the number of DLA claimants by 20%. But I am not sure how taking benefit from 1 in 5 people will "reduce dependency" (on what?) and "promote work" - indeed, several of the people quoted in my previous article about DLA would have to stop working if they lost that benefit, because they do not have enough energy or capacity to both care for themselves AND go to work. If the government think that turfing disabled people off DLA will suddenly give them the capacity to work, they are very much mistaken. It will just disable them even further.
I have one thought, and fear, which may explain the confusion in what has been reported. Perhaps MPs are referring to DLA as being related to work because they have a secret plan to introduce means-testing in the future, in the same way that they have recently announced that households with a higher rate tax payer will no longer qualify for Child Benefit? I sincerely hope that's not the case, as DLA is essential for the individual disabled person's independence. Thankfully, no such plan exists at the moment.
Disability Living Allowance is paid regardless of whether the disabled person is in work. Journalists and MPs, please take note!