Social Care - Health Committee Contents

Memorandum by Carol and Douglas Batchelor (SC 53)


  The Select Committee has received written evidence from organisations which appear to accept the general principle of discrimination against the disabled, both on the grounds of their age and their means.

  There is in our view a fundamental difference between disabilities, whether before and or after reaching retirement age and the need for social care particularly for the aged and infirm towards the end of their lives.

  Disability by its very nature reduces the quality of life throughout the period of disability; it reduces the ability to work normally and to earn well. Disability usually brings with it additional costs and restrictions to life and liberty. These restrictions apply to the disabled person and often to their family carers as well.

  To date the state has to some extent recognised that the disabled have a right to a quality of life and that it is right to support the disabled person in making the choices they feel best meet their needs, through providing the Disability Living Allowance.(DLA) That allowance is in recognition of a right for the disabled to a quality life and a degree of independence and it is not treated as a means tested care benefit.

  The DLA is made up of two quite separate components, the Mobility allowance and the Care Allowance. At present both components are allocated according to assessed needs and with out regard to means.

  The State discriminates against retired disabled people by means testing attendance allowances granted to disabled people over the age of 65. The State also discriminates against those who care for the disabled throughout their lives by treating care related payments as income and as a result taxes those who assist the state by caring for the disabled.

  The disabled, because of their reduced capacity to earn tend to have lower savings and less wealth. The state then further discriminates against them by assessing their wealth and effectively discounting the level of disability related benefit to be paid, thereby further reducing their already low level of financial resource.

  The carers for the disabled are also discriminated against in so far as their wealth is taken into account in determining any benefits that they may receive and by virtue of the fact that any such benefit will be treated as taxable income. This provides a powerful financial incentive not to care, surely the last thing the state should be doing.

  The proposals set out in the Green Paper for Consultation do not clearly draw a distinction between the needs and rights of the disabled and the near end of life care needs of the elderly and infirm.

  The proposals in the green paper make it quite clear that the Care component of the DLA may become means tested in retirement and that the right to a quality of life and independence for the disabled may cease when they reach retirement age and are simply treated as any other elderly and infirm person.

  It is suggested that some clear principles need to be stated to ensure that the disabled and their carers are not discriminated against. We suggest that these principles which could be agreed by all parties could be:

    1. That the disabled and their carers should not be discriminated against on the basis of their age or their disability.

    2. That disability benefits and related payments to carers are paid in recognition of the extra costs of living with a disability.

    3. That payments to the disabled and their carers should be designed to enable the disabled person to remain as independent of social care as possible for as long as possible.

    4. That DLA payments to the disabled and to their carers which relate to disability should not be means tested.

  There is a clear case for recognising that discrimination on the basis of disability is inappropriate. It would be particularly unfortunate if those least fortunate in life were to be taxed by the state on the basis of their means, and as a result effectively beggared by the state over time because of their disability.

  We therefore request that the Members of the Select Committee record their agreement with the principles above and recommend that Disability benefits should not be arbitrarily limited by retirement age or effectively reduced in value by what would amount to a wealth tax on the disabled and their carers.

November 2009

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