Charities say minister ‘misled’ MPs over disability benefit cuts

Disability charities have accused minister for disabled people Maria Miller of "misleading" MPs over the justification for government disability benefit cuts to care home residents.

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Disability charities have accused minister for disabled people Maria Miller of “misleading” MPs over the justification for government disability benefit cuts to care home residents.

Ministers have provoked widespread opposition from disability groups for their plan to remove the mobility component of DLA – worth up to £50 a week – from publicly-funded care home residents and children in residential special schools from March 2013. Nearly 80,000 people will be affected by the change.

In response to queries from government MPs about the nature of the plans. Miller wrote a letter, dated 4 March, to reassure them and justify the government’s approach. She said: “I am deeply concerned about the haphazard way in which the mobility needs of care home residents are being met and I am not content to allow this outdated system to continue. Some of these issues have also been highlighted by the Disability Benefits Consortium’s recent report, Don’t Limit Mobility.”

However, that report concluded that the government’s central justification for removing the mobility component – that recipients received duplicating funding from councils for their mobility needs – was wrong.

“This letter is a concern and potentially very misleading,” said Mark Baker, co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), which includes major charities such as Mencap, Leonard Cheshire Disability and Scope. “It suggests that the DBC is in agreement with the government’s proposal, which is absolutely not the case.”

“If there is any confusion about the proposal, then it has been caused by the government’s own inconsistency in attempting to justify this unnecessary and damaging cut,” he added.

This refers to the DBC’s finding that the government has cited eight different reasons for removing the benefit since the policy was announced in last October’s spending review.

Jane Alltimes, senior policy officer at Mencap, said: “The minster states that mobility needs of care home residents are being met in a ‘haphazard way’. Actually, the report is quite clear in outlining how DLA mobility is used by disabled people, giving them choice and control about what works best for them in relation to meeting their mobility needs.

“Importantly, it also shows how these needs are not being met elsewhere,” she added.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said it did not accept the consortium’s interepretation of Miller’s letter to MPs.

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