Welfare Reform Bill

Memorandum submitted by Capability Scotland and Inclusion Scotland (WR 65)

i. Capability Scotland works with disabled people of all ages and their families and carers throughout Scotland to provide a broad range of flexible, personalised care services. As a major ally in supporting disabled people to achieve full equality Capability is committed to exerting effective influence to ensure that laws are passed which give disabled people equal human and civil rights.

ii. Established in 2001 Inclusion Scotland (IS) is a consortium of disability organisations, individual disabled people and social partners who share common aims. Through a process of structured development Inclusion Scotland aims to draw attention to the physical, social, economic, cultural and attitudinal barriers that affect our everyday lives as disabled people in Scotland. Inclusion Scotland works to reverse the current social exclusion experienced by disabled people through civil dialogue, partnerships, capacity building, education, persuasion, training and advocacy.

iii. We welcome the Government’s recognition of the need to simplify the benefit system. However, we are deeply concerned that the reforms presented in this Bill will disproportionately effect disabled people and undermine their ability to live independently. In many cases the effect will be more profound in Scotland, where a higher proportion of disabled people and specific socio-economic conditions will worsen the effect of the proposed reforms.

Time Limited Contributory Employment Support Allowance – Clauses 51-52

1. We are against eligibility for contributory Employment Support Allowance being reduced to 12 months for those people in the Work Related Activity Group who fail to find work within this time.

2. The Government’s justification of this provision is that it will increase the incentive to work for those in the Work Related Activity Groups. However, it has failed to recognise that in the vast majority of cases disabled people are willing to work but are unable to find suitable employment. Indeed, disabled people make an average of two and a half times as many job applications as non-disabled people and yet get fewer job offers. [1]   An ODI survey in 2009 found that 56 out of every 100 adults with impairments said there were barriers to the type of work they did or the hours they could work. This compares with only 26 out of every 100 adults without impairments. [2] In some cases this may be a direct result of their impairment or disability. However, in many cases it is structural, societal and attitudinal barriers that prevent disabled people from taking up job opportunities. For instance, 74 out of every 100 adults with impairments said they found it hard to use transport services like buses and trains [3] .

3. Discrimination, prejudice and failure on the part of employers to make reasonable adjustments also reduces the likelihood that many disabled people will find work within 12 months. Furthermore, disabled people are at a disadvantage because of the barriers that can exist to accessing school, further and higher education and vocational training. Studies have consistently found strong links between disability and low educational attainment [4] .

4. By time limiting ESA the Government will be pushing disabled people further from the job market, by denying them the additional funds required to cover the costs of finding employment such as additional transport costs, assistance, support and training. The Government estimates that 700,000 people will be affected by the time limit by 2015-16, of whom around 60 percent will be fully or partially compensated by income-related ESA. The average loss for those not fully compensated by means-tested benefits is estimated at £52 a week [5] .

We therefore call upon the committee to remove clause 51 of the Welfare Reform Bill 2011

Changes to Housing Benefit – Clause 68

5. We call upon the committee to remove section 68 of the Welfare Reform Bill, which introduces a reduction in housing benefit for those people of working age who are under-occupying accommodation in the social rented sector. The provision would mean that those found to be under-occupying social rented accommodation would need to seek smaller accommodation from their provider or find accommodation in the private sector. This reform is likely to have a disproportionately negative impact on disabled people in Scotland for the following reasons.

- Disabled people are over represented amongst social rented tenants in Scotland. The Scottish Household Condition Survey found in 2009 that 52% of disabled people live in their own home and 48% in rented accommodation, compared to 69% and 31% respectively for non-disabled people. [6]

- Disabled people will be less able to avoid sanctions under this provision because of the barriers to finding suitable, accessible accommodation. The Scottish Household Condition Survey estimates that there are 71,000 homes requiring adaptations in Scotland [7] and that o ne in five disabled people or people with long-term health problems who require an adapted house live in a house that is ‘not at all’ or ‘not very suitable’ to their needs. [8] The lack of suitable accessible homes in Scotland will make it extremely difficult for disabled people to find alternative accommodation. Where they fail to do so they will be forced further into poverty and in many cases will struggle to cover basic living costs.

- Availability of accessible accommodation is unlikely to improve in the coming years. T he Scottish Government cut its housing and regeneration budget in November 2010 from £448 million to £390.8 million following the UK Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review – a 13% cut in funding. Reductions in funding are likely to continue year on year for some time. It is estimated that £42 billion could be taken out of Scottish Government spending o ver the next 16 years. [9]

- The changes may force people who are heavily reliant on local community and support links to move away from these networks , leading to greater pressure on local authority budgets . As one of our service users commented, "T here is absolutely no guarantee that you’ll be offered a house in the location that you want it. This makes it really difficult when you have a network of support around you and you really don’t want to move away from it but at the same time still want your own home".

We call upon the committee to exclude disabled people or specialist housing need excluded from clause 68.

Part 4: Personal Independence Payments

6. The consultation on the introduction of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) was launched in the context of an announcement by the UK Government that it would reduce the amount of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) paid out by 20% [10] . We are concerned that the objective of the reform is therefore to save money and meet saving targets regardless of the impact this will have on the ability of disabled people to live independently.

7. Using the most recent DWP figures (up to May 2010) over 1.8 million working age people receive DLA. The proposed cuts are likely to mean at least 360,000 disabled people losing DLA across the UK. This will have a hugely detrimental effect on the quality of life of many disabled people and their ability to live independently.

8. In many cases the removal of financial support will lead to increased reliance on social care and other local authority services. The extra burden on local authorities will be felt disproportionately in Scotland. This is because in Scotland, many local authorities take disability benefits – such as the care component of DLA - into account when they are calculating what it is reasonable to charge someone for non-residential care. Many local authorities also fail to deduct disability related expenditure from the individual’s available income. As DLA is reduced, so will the available income of service users and, in turn the amount that local authorities are able to charge for care packages. This will not be the case to the same extent in England, where the Department of Health has issued guidance on fair charging of disabled people. While we are against DLA subsidising local authority budgets, it should be acknowledged that reductions in disability benefits may have a disproportionate impact on local services north of the border [11] .

9. We are also concerned that the target driven nature of the PIP assessment process will affect the accuracy of outcomes and lead to people being denied the financial support they desperately need. There is a huge concern that the medical assessments proposed under clause 76 will be very similar to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) regime introduced to test eligibility for ESA. The WCA regime has lead to a far higher proportion of those assessed being denied benefit entitlement than the Government originally projected (69% as opposed to a projected 49%). As the Harrington Review found [12] , the process does not always identify those people with hidden and fluctuating conditions who need support. It is essential that these issues area addressed before the Government legislates for a further medical assessment.

10. Furthermore, under Part 4 of the Bill all PIP claimants will be independently assessed, including people with severe learning disabilities, double amputees, blind and deafblind people, people with cerebral palsy and those on haemodialysis. We believe that people with impairments and conditions of this long term nature should not be put through the stressful process of independent medical assessment. This would be both a waste of resources and would essentially constitute the harassment of severely impaired people by subjecting them to regular, stressful and totally unnecessary reviews.


Therefore

- The introduction of any independent assessment should be delayed until the concerns raised in the Harrington Review have been addressed.

- Clause 78 should be amended to ensure that assessments are carried out by individuals with sufficient skills and expertise appropriate to the impairment type of the claimant.

- People with prescribed impairments and conditions (including severely visually impaired, severely mentally impaired, double amputee, deaf/blind and those undergoing haemodialysis) should be exempt from the assessment.

Daily Living Component of Personal Independence Payments: Clause 76

11. It is proposed that the care component of DLA will be replaced with the Daily Living Component of PIP. Eligibility for this component will be based on each individual’s ability to conduct ‘daily living tasks’. The Government’s DLA Reform consultation document suggested that this would essentially be based on the individual’s ability to carry out key activities necessary to participate in every day life.

12. We view this as a deeply retrograde step which is akin to a medical model approach to disability. Many disabled people, with great effort and an unlimited amount of time can manage aspects of their personal care (e.g. putting on their own shoes and socks). However to pretend that this means that they can therefore dispense with support with these tasks that might free them up to access work, education or social activities on the same basis as non-disabled people is profoundly disingenuous.

13. We believe the focus of eligibility criteria should be the extent to which PIP would enable each disabled person to overcome socially constructed barriers e.g. inaccessibility, unemployment, socio-economic disadvantage, lack of educational opportunities. This would ensure compatibility with the Government’s commitment to independent living for disabled people and its commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Clause 76 should ensure that eligibility for the Daily Living component of Personal Independence Payment is be based on the extent to which a person needs support to enable them to live independently.

Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payments: Clause 77

14. Eligibility for the mobility component of DLA is currently based on an individual’s ability to walk. However, Clause 76(1) of the Bill states that eligibility for the mobility component of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) will be based on the person’s ability to perform daily mobility activities. While the meaning of mobility tasks will be defined by subsequent regulation previous Government publications have stated that the assessment will take account of the claimant’s ability to perform tasks with the help of aids and adaptations. We are seriously concerned about this for several reasons.

- The social and physical barriers to mobility are not removed by the possession of a wheelchair or a stairlift. For instance, while a person might be physically capable of taking the bus to work, their area may not have any/enough accessible buses.

- A wheelchair does not make buses or trains accessible by itself. In some local authority areas of Scotland the proportion of accessible buses is below 30%, meaning that while a wheelchair user can get you to the bus stop but there is no certainty that you will be able to get onto the bus. Similarly with trains 24 hour prior notice is required to get assistance on and off trains and to ensure that there is a wheelchair space available. Even if trains themselves are accessible (with assistance) many train stations are not.

- There is no explanation of how the availability, suitability and standard of a person’s aids, adaptations and equipment could be assessed. Nor is there consideration of where the person lives. The practicality of getting out and about can be radically different in remote rural areas in Scotland that in central London for example.

- There is no explanation of how the cost of maintaining equipment that a person had bought and paid for themselves would or should be covered.

- Wheelchairs, aids and adaptations are funded by Scottish budgets (such as local authorities and the NHS wheelchair service). The mobility component of DLA is often used to informally subsidise publically provided wheelchairs, aids and adaptations. If DLA (or its equivalent) is removed from 20% of claimants, it is conceivable that the burden will fall on local authority and NHS services to fill this gap.

Six month qualification period for PIP: Clause 79

15. We do not believe that the qualification period for PIP should not be raised from three to six months as is provided for in section 79(1) of the Bill. It is essential that anyone who becomes disabled should be enabled to remain as independent as possible and support should be made available as soon as possible. Six months is a long time to survive financially with all the extra costs that can come from being disabled. In 2005 the DWP reviewed existing research studies about the costs of disability and concluded that the additional costs of disability can range from £7.24 to £1,513 per month. It follows that the additional cost of six months of disability could range from £43.44 to £9,078 [13] . Lack of any support with these costs is unjustifiable and limits the ability of thousands of people to live independently at what may be one of the most stressful times of their lives.

16. Furthermore, the longer someone is away from their employment or the job market the more difficult it is for them to return to it. Raising the waiting period to six months is thus likely to increase the proportion of disabled people out of work – surely the opposite of what is intended .

We would like to see clause 79 amended to a qualification of 3 rather than 6 months.

Mobility Component of PIP for those in Publically Funded Residential Care Homes: Clause 83(1)(b)

17. We are strongly against the inclusion of clause 83(1)(b) in the Bill, which will give the UK Government the power to remove mobility related PIP from people living in publically funded care homes. There is no rational justification for this measure, which has the potential to undermine independent living and violate the human rights of around 80,000 people across the UK. This view is shared by the Social Security Advisory Committee, which has recommended that these measures should not go ahead as they go against the objective of supporting disabled people to live independent and active lives [14] .

18. DLA is usually used by care home residents to access to transport –either their own vehicle, a shared vehicle (vehicles were shared between 2-300 adults), private taxis, public transport. In some cases the mobility component of DLA is also used to fund residents’ powered wheelchairs [15] .

19. To deny this money to care home residents is to deny many of them the right to live independently. It will lead to a massive deterioration in their quality of life. As the sister of one of Capability’s service users said, "The UK government’s proposed changes would turn the home into a prison for him and lead to boredom, frustration, depression and potential aggression – a permanent state of cabin fever."

20. Research conducted by Strathclyde University in partnership with Capability Scotland and the Margaret Blackwood Housing Association in 2010/2011 concluded that many care home residents would be unable to carry out the following activities in violation of their human rights:

- Visit family, including their children, partners, parents and other relatives (a violation of the right to private and family life).

- Attend college and other educational activities (a violation of the right to education)

- Attend worship and other religious activities (a violation of the right freedom of religion)

- Visit social and political clubs (a violation of the right to freedom of association)

- Go on hospital visits, to go to the GP, chiropodist, podiatrist, physiotherapist or other health care professional (a violation of the right to the highest attainable standard of health)

21. The Government argues that all care support and mobility requirements should be met from social care funding. This is not only an unrealistic prospect it is also undesirable and impractical. Research has found that, contrary to UK Government claims, local authorities do not tend to fund mobility costs for disabled people in care homes as part of contractual fees. It also found that half of disabled people who live in residential care give either the majority or their entire DLA mobility component to their care home. Of these, 40% said that it pays for a Motability car, and 21% said the money goes towards petrol for staff to take them out. This suggests that much of the burden of the cuts will fall on local authorities [16] .

22. Care homes with limited resources would not be able to fund the cars and taxi journeys which some residents save their mobility component for. This would lead to residents relying on group transport and them being forced to live regimented and institutionalised lives. As one care home manager put it, "With the minibus, people have to fall in and do what we want. It is reintroducing institutional living"

We call upon the committee to remove clause 83(1)(b) of the Welfare Reform Bill

May 2011


[1] Scope Report ‘Ready, Willing and Disabled’: www.scope.org.uk/help-and-information/publications/ready-willing-and-disabled?style=hide

[2] 2009 Life Opportunities Survey, Office for Disability Issues

[3] 2009 Life Opportunities Survey, Office for Disability Issues

[4] http://odi.dwp.gov.uk/docs/res/los/education.pdf

[5] Time Limiting contributory Employment and Support Allowance SN/SP/5853 3 February 2011, House of Commons Library http://www.parliament.uk/briefingpapers/commons/lib/research/briefings/snsp-05853.pdf

[6] Scottish Household Conditions Survey: www.shcs.gov.uk

[7] Scottish Household Conditions Survey: www.shcs.gov.uk

[8] Scottish Household Conditions Survey: www.shcs.gov.uk

[9] Scottish Government, Fresh Thinking New Ideas presentation: www.housingdiscussion.scotland.gov.uk

[10] UK Government Comprehensive Spending Review, October 2010

[11] Rapid Response Report on Disability Related Expenditure, Capability Scotland, February 2011

[12] http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/wca-review-2010.pdf An Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment, Professor Malcolm Harrington, November 2010

[13] Capability Scotland, Rapid Response Report, Disability Related Expenditure, February 2011

[14] http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/pdf/DLA-Consultation.pdf

[15] How Am I Going to Put Flowers on My Dad’s Grave?, April 2011, Capability Scotland and Strathclyde University

[16] http://www.unitedresponse.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Dont-limit-mobility.pdf