Tories launch campaign to protect disability benefits

The Conservative Party today launched a campaign against government plans to use disability benefits for pensioners to fund increases in adult social care funding.

The party has already voiced its opposition to the plan and today said it would campaign against the proposals, included in the government’s green paper on adult care, published in July.

It is urging people to sign a petition against the plans and write to their MPs.

The government’s plan to fund at least a quarter to a third of the personal care costs of all eligible care users would require money being transferred to the adult care budget from disability benefits.

Charities’ anger

The plan sparked anger from a wide range of disability charities and older people’s groups who said disability living allowance and attendance allowance provided valuable income for disabled working-age adults and pensioners respectively.

Last month, health secretary Andy Burnham ruled out using the DLA budget for people aged under 65, but maintained that it was still considering using money currently spent on AA.

DLA for people aged over 65 – paid to those who were claiming the benefit before their 65th birthday – may also be transferred into the social care budget.

No one would lose out

Burnham vowed that no one claiming AA or DLA at the time of the changes would lose out from transferring the money into the social care budget.

However, the Tories claimed the proposals risked slashing pensioners’ incomes by around a quarter and reducing their independence. The party said 2.4m people over 65 received disability benefits – two-thirds of this group received an average of £60 a week from AA and the other third received an average of £75 a week from DLA.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May said: “The government plan will take away that choice and force vulnerable pensioners to take the services that are given to them.”

The government will confirm whether it will go ahead with the plan in a white paper, due early in 2010, but legislation to bring about the change would only be brought in after the next election, which the Tories are widely tipped to win.

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