There's a striking slideshow on the Society Guardian website in which a number of disabled people explain how they spend their DLA.
But, for me, the most striking bit of all is how many of the people photographed need to spend their DLA on essentials. Mahri says she needs to spend her DLA on toiletries and deodorant, Johnny says he spends his on clothing, food, toiletries and hair cuts. Kofi says he spends his DLA on his shopping, Lorraine spends hers on clothes and Rubina says she worries about how she'll afford clothes without it. Tony says he needs his DLA to buy food.
DLA is supposed to be for the extra costs associated with being disabled and is not classed as "income". Your Incapacity Benefit or ESA or JSA or wages if you work should be enough for you to pay for life's essentials leaving you to spend your DLA on the costs you have that a non-disabled person doesn't incur.
That disabled people are living on so little that they need to spend their DLA on the basics is scandalous. Or it should be.
Of course, sometimes disabled people need to spend more on the basics. One example is people who need to buy ready meals and takeaway instead of ingredients to prepare our own food, because we can't prepare our own food. One friend of mine who has what she describes as a "freestyle" walking technique spends a fortune on shoes because she wears them out so quickly; another "basic" that's more expensive for us. So using your DLA to pay the difference between what a non-disabled person would spend and what you need to spend is absolutely logical. But we shouldn't be so impoverished that we can't meet normal expenses at all without our DLA.
Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that in 2010 a single person needed £14,400 a year to reach a minimum standard of living. This equates to £277 a week. That’s just your average single person, not a disabled person who needs to fund the extra costs of being disabled.
If you disregard my DLA (because it's supposed to only cover the extra costs of being disabled and not everyday things) but include my housing benefit (which I don't see a penny of because it gets transferred straight from the HB department at the council into the council's rent collection department) then my income falls short of that £277 by £67.
You may think "well, she gets more than she'd get if she was on Job Seekers Allowance." But you have to remember that JSA is intended to only be a short term measure until you find a job (and I agree it's a paltry amount). My incapacitation has lasted 4 years so far and there's no end in sight. I actually have to live my life in the long term with monies falling short of the minimum income needed. There's no "we'll just pay you a poxy amount until a job comes up."
So it's not really any wonder disabled people end up using their DLA to pay for food and clothes, because if we're living on benefits we don't have enough money to actually live. And the government want to cut it back even further.