Half the 3.2million people on disability benefit have never been asked for evidence to back their claims, it emerged last night.
The DLA application form (link at the bottom of this page) is 39 pages long. The DWP ask your GP for info, your "carer" (if you have one) for info and many people add supplemental information from consultants. A hell of a lot of people are called in for a medical carried out by Atos. And, of course, many cases go to a tribunal in which case reams and reams of supporting evidence is required.
In addition, nearly a million people have been on disability living allowance for at least 14 years, a Government analysis of claims for the benefit revealed.
That's incredibly surprising. Surprising because I'd have expected it to be slightly more. Most impairments don't just vanish. Amputated limbs don't grow back. Snapped spinal cords don't heal. My own Osteogenesis Imperfecta has been present since I was conceived and will never go away. In fact as I smash up more bones and joints I'll only become more impaired. I would hazard a guess that the majority of DLA claimants who cease needing DLA do so because they died.
Cuts to DLA, which is meant to help people who have specific mobility or care needs and cannot do things such as walk or wash and dress themselves, have been criticised by charities and Labour MPs.
However, ministers say figures showing how the benefit ballooned under Labour – and has been paid to people for years with no checks – demonstrate an urgent need for reform.
Since DLA was introduced in 1992, and since Labour came to power in '97 there have been massive medical advances. These mean that premature babies that wouldn't have survived in the past now do, but they're often left with cerebral palsy and other impairments. More people survive horrific accidents and illnesses like cancer, but are left permanently ill or impaired and require help with getting around or personal care. We should take pride in our great health service that the number of disabled people is increasing because people can survive things that were previously fatal.
Of those, 31 per cent – almost a million – have been claiming for 14 years or more, while 46 per cent have been on the benefit for more for ten years.
I've been on DLA since it's inception in 1992. No-one told my genes that the Daily Mail thinks there should be a 14 year limit on being disabled.
The problem is there is no system of review. People can be given the benefit and no one checks if they still need it.'
More than two million people on DLA have been given indefinite awards, which means they have no further contact with officials about whether they still need the benefit.
What part of "a disability is for life, not just for Christmas" do the Mail not understand? Oh, that's right. It's not about facts, it's about whipping up disablist harassment (which the Mail will then report in a faux horrified manner).
I have an indefinite award. My bones will never stop being brittle. My bones will never stop hurting. My smashed up joints will never become unsmashed. My tendons and ligaments will never stop being like overstretched elastic bands which fail to support my joints while Mail journos will continue to have steady tendons and ligaments like sturdy pieces of string. Why waste DWP time and money having officials contact me to see if anything's changed?
Some people do have conditions that might improve, for example mental health problems which may respond to drugs and/or talking therapies. Such people are not given indefinite awards, they're given awards for limited periods e.g. 3 years or 5 years. Indefinite awards only go to those of us who have no chance of ever improving.
The Government now wants all claimants to undergo periodic medical tests to justify the payments. Ministers propose to end the automatic right to DLA, worth up to £70 a week for care and up to £50 a week for travel.
What a brilliant idea! Why not waste more money on bureaucracy? According to this source DLA medicals cost the government either £51.37 or £77.33. The government actually wants to throw away that money every year or three years just for a doctor to look at me and say "her skeleton is still crap"? Less than a hundred pounds to declare someone as having not got any better may not seem like much money, but if they're spending £77.33 annually on the 3.2 million claimants of DLA? That's a cost of £247,456,000.
As for automatic entitlements, there are only 6. One of the entitlements is "terminally ill and not expected to live more than a further 6 months." Once that automatic entitlement has ended you can be sure the Mail will be outraged at dying people not getting benefits.
And it's not up to £50 a week for "travel;" it's either £18.95 or £49.85 for "help with getting around." I'm sure the Mail wouldn't consider getting from bed to toilet as an exotic adventure but if someone needs to use their £49.85 to fund a wheelchair then that might be the extent of the travelling they're doing.
The article finishes off by inaccurately talking about the removal of the mobility component of DLA from people resident in care homes:
A group of 27 organisations for the disabled has warned against plans to axe the mobility part of DLA, which it says will hit 80,000 care home residents unfairly.
Which makes it sound like the mobility component of DLA is being removed, full stop, but that care home residents will be the most severely affected. That is not the case; people like me living in our own homes will get to keep our mobility component (for now, anyway).
Care homes are pretty bleak places, just have a read of this article by Johann Hari about his experiences with his grandmother while she lived in a home. At the time of the announcement in the CSR @beccaviola tweeted that having her Motability vehicle while she was stuck in a care home was the thing that stopped her killing herself.
Jen from Aylesbury has commented at the bottom of the article that:
I am afraid its the scumbags and scroungers that make things bad for everyone
There are almost no scumbags scrounging DLA. Have a look at the DWP's official figures for DLA fraud on page 8 of this document. The fraud rate for DLA is 0.5% and the only benefit with a lower fraud rate is retirement pension. There's only the perception of a massive rate of fraud because of rags like the Mail printing inaccurate articles like today's.
Last year a study found that those who watch Fox News are the most misinformed Americans. It'd be really nice if I could sit here and say that Mail readers like Jen are the most misinformed Brits but, sadly, the idea that benefit fraud is a massive problem has even been fed into the minds of people who really, really, REALLY should know better.
Edit: Rhydian at the Broken of Britain has put together a template message to send to the Press Complaints Commission about today's Mail article.
Edit 2: The folks at fullfact.org have taken apart the stats used in the Mail article