Welfare Reform bill is causing widespread concerns among disabled individuals who currently depend on Disability Living Allowance.
The Welfare Reform bill is one part of the government's ongoing spending review, and proposes radical reform of the current benefits system including replacement of DLA with a new form of payment.
Presently there are around three million people in the UK who rely on funding from DLA to help with costs arising from their disability, at estimated cost to the government of £12 billion per year. DLA is used by many to fund the costs of a specially-adapted wheelchair access vehicle; disabled vehicle drivers fear the replacement of this benefit could unfairly cut their funding.
The government insists that reform of the DLA is not motivated by a desire to cut costs. When announcing the details of the bill, Ministers stated that reform is necessary to introduce more objectivity and improved assessment of eligibility for benefits. The intention is for testing for the new 'Personal Independence Payment' to follow a social rather than medical model, based on an individual's needs rather than the details of their disability.
However the reforms contained in the bill have drawn opposition from many disability charities, academics and some politicians. A particularly controversial change is the proposed removal of mobility payments for people in residential care.
Earlier this month the Welfare Reform Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons, when a majority of 288 MPs (308 for, over 20 against) voted in favor of the bill. This week sees the first meetings of the Welfare Reform Bill Committee which will conduct a public consultation on the details of the bill over the next few months. From now until the 24th May 2011, the Welfare Reform Bill Committee will meet every Tuesday and Thursday in Westminster, in meetings that are open to the public.
Announcing the details of the bill in December last year, minister for disability Maria Miller invited contributions from the general public on the reforms: "We want the views of disabled people to be fully reflected in any change we make to DLA and we remain fully committed to the principles of DLA as a non-means tested cash benefit to assist with the extra costs incurred by disabled people"
Disabled charities nationwide are actively campaigning to ensure that the views of disabled individuals are represented in the committee stage of the bill. Until the 10th May 2011, the Welfare Reform Bill Committee is inviting written evidence from any interested parties who wish to have their views considered.