The Department for Work and Pensions have just announced that they are extending their consultation on changes to the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) from 14 February to 18 February.
Their questionnaire – containing 22 questions to which they would like answers – is available HERE
No reason has been given for the extension but it may be related to reported crashes at the relevant DWP website or Government may just be listening to the views of people who have not yet managed to complete the questionnaire.
The consultation began on 6 December which, according to benefits campaigner Emily Collingridge who wrote a definitive UK self-help guide Severe ME/CFS: A Guide to Living published last year, was a unreasonably short period of time for completion by people with severe disabilities – the actual people who should be receiving DLA.
In a complaint sent to the DWP early on February 7, Emily wrote:
“For me the demands of Christmas, symptom flares, extensive liaising with professionals over urgent issues and an exhausted, incredibly over-stretched carer (to name but a few) mean that thus far I have only managed to read the consultation document, absorb it and contemplate responses. Frankly to have come that far between 6th December and 6th February is close to a miracle.
“I am supposed only to spend a maximum of twenty minutes twice daily on such things and my ability to do that depends heavily on how much my carer is struggling to juggle everything on any given day. I now have just seven days in which to answer 20 questions whilst so restricted. Many other things (nothing frivolous, all relevant to my daily survival and healthcare) will have to be sacrificed in order to make use of every opportunity to occur in those seven days. And I have just a week not because I was disorganised, deemed this low priority or forgot it was happening, but because I've given it all the time I could up until now and it's not been enough to get started on my response. I'm not the only one.”
In a reply to Emily, Roger Pugh from DWP Communications (Consultations and Stakeholders) wrote on February 8:
“The current public consultation on Disability Living Allowance is only one of three stages of our consultation on reforming this benefit.
“As a first stage, for some months before the launch of the consultation we had been talking to organisations of and for disabled people about the review of DLA. This work informed the current consultation paper, which is the second stage. As a final stage, we have also undertaken to consult on more detailed proposals as they are formulated.
“The Code of Practice on Consultation recommends a 12-week consultation period, and although the current formal consultation stage is for less than 12 weeks, the total amount of consultation over all three stages will be considerably more than that. In these circumstances, we believe that the current consultation period of 10 weeks is reasonable, and that there will be more than adequate opportunity for people to let us have their views.
“This is borne out by the fact that, so far, we have received over 1,500 responses from private individuals to this consultation – more than for our 21st Century Welfare Consultation last year – and over 74,000 visits to the online consultation page. We have made the consultation as accessible as possible to disabled people, and so far, there have been 6,511 downloads of the Easy Read consultation document, and over three thousand viewings of the BSL video.”
The ME Association are preparing their own response to the questionnaire.