More than 100 prominent social care academics and policy experts have urged the government to drop its plans for welfare reform because they say the plans will penalise disabled people.
The open letter to disability minister Maria Miller says: “On the grounds of its unfairness to disabled people and undermining of their human and civil rights, we reject the government’s implementation of welfare reform. The Welfare Reform Bill, to be presented for its second reading in the House of Commons on 9 March, contains measures that could be described as ‘anti-disabled people’.”
The bill sets out plans to simplify a host of benefits into a single universal credit. It outlines plans to limit contributory employment and support allowance for disabled people to one year and replace disability living allowance (DLA) with a new benefit, personal independence payment (PIP), which is designed to cut the costs to the taxpayer for working-age claimants by 20%.
The letter, also signed by 18 members of Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament, said: “We call for the reform of DLA, and other ‘anti-disability’ provisions that will place extra pressure on social care and social services, to be removed from the Welfare Reform Bill.”
The DLA reform would introduce face-to-face assessments for all claimants, replacing a system in which most claimants fill out a form and supply supporting evidence from professionals.
But the letter said: “The reasons for this reform are unclear. Objectivity and independence of assessment are some of the reasons offered by the minister for disabled people and while we understand there may be a case for a more objective assessment of needs, we believe that evidence from GPs and specialists should be sufficient in many cases as it is at present.”
“We are concerned that the reasons given by the minister suggest GPs and specialists cannot be trusted to provide medical evidence.”
It said this appeared to conflict with the government’s health reforms, which will see GPs given responsibility for commissioning NHS services.
Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, Alison Graham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, and Gavin Hayes, secretary of left wing pressure group Compass, also signed the letter.
The letter comes as disability rights campaign group Broken of Britain launches a campaign to highlight how disabled people will be left vulnerable by the bill’s proposals. It is illustrated by an image of a disabled woman lying naked and face down in some snow next to her wheelchair.