Saturday 8 January 2011

DLA - the gateway benefit

The government's proposed changes to DLA have been much reported - and you can see articles about why it matters on Flash Says and across the blogosphere, including Where's the Benefit of course. The news that 20% of people will no longer qualify, and that the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will become harder to obtain than the existing system is a bitter blow to those who worked hard just to demonstrate their entitlement. Indeed, it is reported in the news today that the proposed change from DLA to PIP could breach human rights laws; the fight to save DLA goes on.

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

  • Dial-a-Ride

  • 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.]


  1. The free bus pass can be acquired on a lower rate mobility DLA if you would be refused a driving licence as a result of your disability - I qualify for one as I have epilepsy and am no longer allowed to drive, for example, although I only receive lower rate mobility.

    Plus in some cities, the bus pass entitles you to more than concessionary bus travel. Here in Manchester I can travel free outside the morning peak period on the tram network and all local trains within Greater Manchester (normally, I'd have to pay, even with a third off from my Disabled Rail Card.

    I think you also need DLA to get a RADAR key for disabled toilets. I applied through DIAL and had to show my award letter to get mine.

  2. Also you will have some home benefits such as the Freeview Digital replacement for your TV aerial installed free...

  3. This is just showing how terrible it will be for disabled people who have already fought their way through to get DLA to start with - Then they are toild for PIP they are scum and not broken enbough! And thrown on to the scrapheap. They lose their motability car, lose their blue badge - And are then housebound.

    But - who cares as long as Scumeron and Smeggy are happy eh???????

    They are ruining our lives just because they refuse to MAKE THESE LARGE COMPANIES PAY THE TAX THEY RIGHTLY OWE!

    We are just pawns in their games and this farce of a consulation is just crap - They have already made their decision - They have chosen the weaest people who are unable to go to London and tramp the streets and throw up a big fuss (Mainly because alot of us can't physically do it - Hence WE ARE DISABLED and cannot. They are using our disabilities against us and are targeting us as we have a smaller voice than students and other 'normal' people.

    I wsish I could give a whole host of disabilities to this pair - The Laurel and Hardy of Politics. It is a friggin joke - They don't know or care what they are doing - They are taking us back into the 1700's with Human Rights


  4. Thanks to anonymous, I hadn't remembered help with the digital switchover but I seem to recall you're right!

    Wordsmith for Hire, when I bought my RADAR key I did it through the RADAR website and just had to say yes, I am disabled. I know in some areas you can also get them from your council, if they are RADAR locking council toilets. So a DLA letter isn't always needed, although I agree that it's good evidence of course.

    What else have I missed, I'm sure there must be something? :-)

  5. Saying this not to criticise but to offer some hope: while DLA can help, I got my Freedom Pass and Disabled Persons Railcard *before* I got my DLA award. For the Freedom Pass, I had to provide my doctor's details so my local council could send him a form to fill in. For the railcard, I had to get my doctor to write to the railcard people. When I called them, they said I would qualify if I could provide proof that I am medically unable to drive.

    Not that I don't agree with the point you are making - and I actually think it's a huge problem the way DLA is so often used as a simple indicator of someone's situation, regardless of the fact that plenty of people who should get it don't.

  6. Anne - I quite agree, you CAN get things on a discretionary basis, or if there is some other evidence, but DLA is just such a wonderfully simple evidence.

    Also, I didn't know about half of these things until I was already receiving DLA, some of them well after. I put together because I met other disabled people at a focus group and most of us didn't know about things - such as travel passes - which we could get and which would be helpful. A few of us knew about some things, other people about others... I made a list and vowed to get it online. After all when you get DLA all they automatically tell you about is free car tax! But I digress.

    Anyway, you're quite right - my neighbour got a blue badge before her DLA came through, on the basis of a letter from her consultant saying she could only walk 5 steps at a time, but not everyone has a helpful GP or consultant... sadly.

  7. Flash, sorry to nitpick, but it wasn't discretionary. Some Freedom Passes are discretionary, ie for people who don't fit the criteria, but their councils award them one anyway. But I fitted into one of the default categories (people who can't drive for medical reasons) and thus qualified, DLA or not.

    I know I sound pedantic, but I don't want people thinking that entitlement to things like this is discretionary if they don't have DLA - when having, or not having, DLA doesn't necessarily affect your ability to quality and claim, depending on the reasons for that claim.

    Part of the point I'm making, also, is how much simpler it is to apply for things like the Freedom Pass than for DLA. The whole thing makes my head spin. Can I drive? Yes/no question. Can I be in charge of a cooker safely while alone? 59 pages...

  8. Another thing DLA is a passport to: Being able to drive at 16.

    A teenager not in receipt of DLA HRM can ride a moped/motorbike/whatever at 16 and drive a car at 17. A teenager in receipt of HRM is considered too severely impaired to ride a two-wheeled thingum so is allowed to drive a car at 16.

    (Yes, I was 16 when I passed my driving test.)

  9. I have applied for freedom pass but dont get DLA benefit, so will I still be accepted for freedom pass without DLA?

  10. When I first applied for a Freedom Pass DLA was one of the criteria which made you automatically eligible. If you didn't get DLA then you could still get an FP if your doctor wrote a report confirming that you met certain criteria.

    When the FP was integrated into the English Bus Pass scheme DLA actually lost its status as an automatic eligibility. Now you have to submit a report from your doctor.

    So, in short, no. You don't need to be getting DLA to get a bus pass.

  11. It looks like people with epilepsy who currently qualify for DLA won't get the new PIP.

  12. Hi there, can i just ask, i am disabled and have been getting DLA for a few years now, but i am now finding it harder to get about. I never knew i could get a free bus pass until i read on here.

    If i apply for one will any of my DLA be stopped.?
    I thought it may be as if i get a bus pass i am no longer housebound so wont i lose my mobility part of my DLA.?

  13. The DWP doctor told me I did not qualify for DLA,yet the Appeals Tribunal awarded me the Higher Rate of DLA.So if you are turned down for PIP make sure you appeal!Remember the DWP doctors are NHS rejects who are not up to the standard to train as consultants or GP's.


  15. Hi ive never done this before but i am so confused about what grants are available for disabled people. I have Lupus and have a severe intolarance to the cold. This time of year isa nightmare as heating my home costs a fortune but have no option but to do so. I worry constantly about the heating bills as the heating is on at th lowest setting possible so i can still function without the severe pain if i get cold. Is there any help at all out there. Please someone reply. I have a new boiler and GCH but the lowest setting is still to much for me to afford..

  16. I now have the higher rate i had a stroke and im only 33 but I re did my form and now they have said yes.

    I really did think I would have to fight however I have found the staff at DLA helpful I can now have a car that can drive and I can start to have a life again.

    You can also get discounts at the cinema is 5.36 for a year and your someone eles can go free.

    it's really changed my life