‘Ministers announce U-turn on mobility benefit cut’, BBC News, 1 December 2011

From BBC News, 1 December 2011.

Controversial plans to axe some benefit payments to disabled people living in care homes are being dropped.

The government had planned to axe the “mobility” part of Disability Living Allowance – worth £51-a-week and currently paid to up to 80,000 people.

Disability charity Scope had condemned the move as “callous” and said it would leave people prisoners in their homes.

Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller confirmed in a written statement to MPs that the plan will not now go ahead.

Up to 80,000 disabled people in care homes are thought to receive the mobility component of DLA – the government had argued that local authority contracts with care homes should cover residents’ mobility needs.

Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to axe it in last year’s spending review, aimed at saving £135m by 2014-15.

But it came in for heavy criticism from disability charities and campaigners – who said it was a lifeline for disabled people in residential care which helped them visit family, friends and attend things like doctors appointments and helped them live independent lives.

The government has since been reviewing the decision and two charities, Mencap and Leonard Cheshire Disability, asked Lord Low of Dalston to carry out a separate review.

The Low Review, which reported back earlier this month, found “no evidence of overlap” between the support provided by the government, and that provided by local authorities and said axing the benefit for those in care homes would “deny people control over their own lives”.

‘Integral’

Adam Penwarden of Turning Point, a health and social care provider, said he was “reassured” that the government appeared to have “listened to those who need support the most”.

“This benefit is integral to the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our society, allowing them to access and be part of their local community.

“The removal of this vital resource would have rendered many of them housebound, robbing them of the chance they would otherwise have to lead fulfilled and independent lives.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We have always been clear that we will not make any changes that stop disabled people in care homes from getting out and about.

“Our officials have spent the last few months gathering information and evidence, including visiting disabled people in care homes to find out from them and their families about their mobility needs.

“The Low Review also looked at some of the same issues and so we have been reflecting on the outcome of this work.”

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said the benefit was an “absolute lifeline” to disabled people: “News that the government is re-thinking its plans to scrap this payment will come as a huge relief,” he said.

“However we are concerned that this relief could be short-lived. There are several other changes within the Welfare Reform Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords, that could push thousands of disabled families, already struggling to make ends meet, over the edge.”

The coalition plans to replace DLA, introduced in 1992 to help disabled people cope with the extra costs they face in their daily lives, with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

All 3.2 million people receiving DLA at the moment, both those in work and out of work, will be reassessed.

Mr Hawkes said: “Critical flaws in the assessment and an extended qualifying period mean there is no guarantee that the payment will go to the people that need it the most.”

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