But I think there is one more important aspect to DLA that has been overlooked; it is a gateway to many other things.
By that I mean that the standards for mobility and care levels are fairly well defined; organisations which deal with disabled people and assess their need can simply look at the individual’s DLA award to understand what that person’s needs might be, rather than reinventing the wheel and creating their own assessment system. In many cases, receipt of DLA at a certain level provides automatic entitlement to other benefits and services.
For example, here are some useful schemes for which you would automatically qualify, if you get DLA at the levels specified
- Disabled person’s railcard - Any mobility award, or higher or middle rate care
- Warm Front scheme – a grant for heating and insulation work – Any DLA award
- Disability Premium – extra money if you are on income-related benefits – Any DLA award, although middle or higher rate care entitles you to a higher amount, the “severe disability premium”
and the items below are awarded if you have a Higher rate mobility award:
- Freedom Pass – free travel on London Transport
- Blue badge
- Taxicard – reduced fares on London taxis
- Refund on road vehicle tax
- Motability scheme
- National bus pass (in Scotland, higher or middle rate care award also qualifies)
Indeed, it was reported in the Northern Echo this week that “claiming [Disability Living Allowance] not only benefits the recipient and helps stimulate the local economy, it also simplifies the Blue Badge process. This is because people are automatically entitled to a Blue Badge if they are in receipt of the higher rate of the Disability Living Allowance mobility component so don’t need medical evidence to show they have mobility problems and so there are fewer appeals against the refusal of the badge.”
Many other organisations use DLA as a method of determining entitlement – it is a simple way to demonstrate need, and it’s rather less embarrassing than asking someone’s medical history at the front desk. For example many museums, theatres and concert venues will allow a “carer” to enter with you for free. Waving your letter from the DWP can get you the help or concession that you need!
Glastonbury and other festivals also use DLA as a guide to need – for example, in order to access facilities such as disabled camping, accessible toilets and viewing platforms, as well as being permitted a free ticket for your personal assistant, you need to be in receipt of higher rate mobility, and/or middle or higher rate care DLA. (If you don’t claim DLA then you can always make your case to the access co-ordinator, but then provision is discretionary rather than automatic, which can make for a nervous few weeks until you hear whether your application is approved!)
I also haven’t heard anything about how the Motability scheme will operate after the demise of DLA. Over half a million people use the scheme and will be part way through a contract when the changes come into force. Will PIP be enough to fund Motability car hire? How about those whose award level is changed after a PIP medical assessment – how will they be able to afford the car, scooter or powerchair that they need?
When DLA is replaced with PIP, things are going to get complicated. After all, the government has stated that it wants to get 20% of people off this type of benefit, but those people’s needs won’t go away. They will be left with no easy way to demonstrate their level of disability. Organisations won’t have a clear understanding of what the relevant levels of PIP correspond with – at least, not straight away. Will old DLA letters be able to be used? For how long, until everyone is required to hold a PIP entitlement instead?
People may be up in arms at the thought of losing DLA, and frustrated at the thought of having to apply for a new benefit - but they should also be fearful of losing the many extra benefits that they use, with no easy route to prove their need once the DLA rug is pulled from under us all.
[This article was crossposted to Flash Says.]