The Budget and DLA: initial reactions

From a disability perspective, the big announcement in today’s Budget was the introduction of medical assessments for all DLA claimants from 2013-14.

The relevant paragraph is the following from the Budget document:

1.103 The Government will reform the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to ensure support is targeted on those with the highest medical need. The Government will introduce the use of objective medical assessments for all DLA claimants from 2013-14 to ensure payments are only made for as long as a claimant needs them.

As I highlighted in my post on “Poverty, worklessness… and DLA?”, the government has established a narrative where it sees reforms to disability benefits as reducing welfare dependency and promoting work. This is reflected again on page 8 (pdf version) of the Budget document.

The same document also talks about a “fair and responsible benefit system” that supports those most in need without creating dependency for those would be better off in work (page 38, pdf version).

And the key motivation for all of this is revealed on page 24 (pdf version) of the Budget document:

The Government will also introduce measures to control spending on tax credits, housing benefit and disability benefits. [emphasis added]

To this end, the introduction of medical assessments for DLA is proposed to save £360m in 2013/14 and £1.075bn in 2014/15. Put another way, this is 2.9% and 8.5% respectively of the disability benefits bill for 2008/09 (which was £12.6bn).

There are several issues arising from this (these are judgments I hope to expand on as and when time allows):

1. The VAT increase affects everyone equally. However, the change from the Retail Prices Index to the Consumer Prices Index is only applied to benefits, thereby affecting disabled people. By dropping 2.1% per annum (RPI is currently 5.5% and CPI is 3.4%) the government is estimated to save £6bn per year by the end of the Parliament. The combined effect of the VAT increase and fiddling with the different prices indices represents a double whammy for disabled people.

(1a. I’m unclear at the moment if benefits are also going to be frozen, rather than rise at the rate of inflation. If so, this could be a triple whammy for disabled people. Anyone who knows more about this than me, please let me know.)

2. Introducing medical assessment suggests the Tories think people are faking disability to claim benefits. Once again, they’re confusing the care and support needs of disabled and older people with being in work. DLA simply recognises that there are extra costs associated with day-to-day living if you are a disabled person.

3. Part of the increase in DLA uptake relates to the fact more people are living independently rather than in a residential setting. Effectively cutting DLA risks reversing this rise in independent living.

4. I suspect the costs of administering medical assessments will be big. I’ve found some figures relating to the introduction of the Employment Support Allowance to support this argument, which I’ll blog later.

5. The potential savings from introducing the medical assessment aren’t particularly big, in absolute or relative terms. This suggests to me that this move by the coalition government is ideological: they are out to get the “scroungers” rather than provide real support to people who need it.

6. By implying a financial cap on the support available through DLA, this is the start of a slippery slope: just look at what the restrictions on the ILF budget have meant in practice: no new applications to that fund until at least April 2011 (more details here)

7. There is no mention in the Budget of a similar approach to Attendance Allowance, which is essentially the same benefit as DLA but for a different age group (i.e. over 65s), and which actually costs more than DLA.

8. I suspect a reduced number of DLA benefit holders will place much more pressure on adult social care, where social care funding is already in a mess. This will compound the pressures on local government introduced by the difficulties the ILF is facing.

My overall conclusion is that disabled people will be much worse off as a result of the introduction of medical assessments for DLA, and that these are being introduced for ideological and not financial reasons.

More later.


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

28 thoughts on “The Budget and DLA: initial reactions”

  1. What worries me about the medical exam thing is how hard it is, and how long it takes to get a diagnosis for many disabling conditions in the first place.
    With many modern maladies the criteria are often subjective on the point of view of the Doc.
    What will the criteria be? If I have fibromyalgia and I get one of those Docs who “do not believe in fibromyalgia” am I going to be judged fit to work?
    Why employ a whole bunch more doctors to examine us when we all have doctors already?

  2. No mention of incapacity scroungers and those claiming ib in other countries no checks on them it seems,target the easy ones first,the disabled,cannot see this as being a vote winner,,let the bankers off easy,let the rich off easy,turncoat liberal yes men and women showing their true colours,rubbish football team,rubbish goverment,legalise euthanasia, put me to sleep i have had enough….

  3. What will happen to anyone who has a vehicle through the Motobility scheme (paid for out of DLA)while these examinations are happening…will they be able to keep their transport?

  4. just more to worry myself into an early grave .will the dhs medical docs no more than the 3 consultants i see for my medical conditions i think not its all about taking money off the weakest.

  5. I am a Polio survivor with all the problems that can bring in later life. Most doctors already have so little understanding of my problems and have never even dealt with the Late Effects of Polio. I have already been through 4 tough government medicals to qualify for DLA, I was handled so roughly in my last medical that I was laid up for a week after it. I am terrified of being dragged through all that again. DLA is one of the things that makes my life liveable, I now face the next couple of years of constant worry, This just isn’t FAIR!

  6. Just wanted to weigh in and thank you for an excellent exploration of this issue, which are far more eloquent and detailed than any nonsense I’ve come up with. I look forward to your follow-up posts.
    All the best
    Pandora (from

  7. “My overall conclusion is that disabled people will be much worse off as a result of the introduction of medical assessments for DLA, and that these are being introduced for ideological and not financial reasons.”
    I’m sure the financial aspect has its appeal – though appeals (pun intentional) have their financial implications – they reverse many of the original decisions, and cost a lot to carry out and administer.
    The “ideological” has its advantages of course, but I’ll bet this is a way to get some positive responses to the budget in the Daily Mail and The Telegraph. “We may be putting up VAT, but at least we’re cutting down on the numbers of fake-disability, benefit-scrounging scum who take money from hard-working families.”
    And, of course, most of the comment will be from people who don’t know that DLA can be given to those in full employment, and is not the same thing as IB.

  8. I receive DLA. I’m delighted to know that people think I should work instead. Um, I do.
    Funny how when I can’t do something (e.g. drive) it’s a very simple yes/no question. (Can I drive? No.) When it’s something I can do (e.g. receive DLA) there’s a 50-page form and a mass of snobbery from ignorant idiots who confuse DLA with incapacity benefits.
    If these assessments are carried out by random doctors, I’m screwed. What I don’t understand is why they can’t just ask for medical evidence. I had to supply a letter from my consultant to get my Disabled Persons Railcard and Freedom Pass; why don’t they just write to him?
    Oh yeah. They might have to keep paying me the benefit, then.

  9. p.s. sorry I’m a bit upset, can you tell? One too many mentions in the Daily Hell et al about how DLA claimants ought to work instead.

  10. Why should we go through more embarassing and painful examinations to prove that we are actually disabled when the goverment are willing to allow immigrants to come over and be provided with benefits and a house without going through what we have to go through

  11. Just a word of caution.
    Let’s not go down the road of blaming immigrants and asylum seekers for the actions of our own government.
    I do appreciate that some disabilities may not be so visible to a doctor unfamiliar with the ilness that caused it,
    But on the whole are we not worrying too much? If we are genuinely claiming DLA we should have no fear of a medical in 3 years time. (if we’re still here in 2013).
    Enjoy life as much as possible, if this system does expose one or two malingeres surely it’s all for the best.

  12. Forgot to say I had to go through a medical investigation recently to confirm my appliction for Incapacity Benefit.
    I’ve been disabled since the age of 18 months, walked with calipers and crutches for most of my life, but due to increasing problems am now a full time wheelchair user.
    To be fair to the doctor who examined me he did say he was surprised I’d been sent for a medical, which, of course, was a dead cert I’d pass it.

  13. I had to fight hard to get my dla after seeing the medical expert that they sent to my home, He was rude made many insinuating remarks and it was only when I appealed and played back the recording I had made of his visit did I get my dla and an apology letter. Do I have to go through all that again???????

  14. I had a major RTA which left me with 1 leg removed aboved the knee and what’s left is virtually paralysed, other nerve damage means I cant feel things well with my hands so am suseptable to burns etc – after being assesed and awarded, firstly for a year and then for 2 yrs I had to undergo a medical where a Dr came to me from miles away and stated what a waste of his time and recommended award being set “for life” which they did.
    My question is – as I’ve had a medical previously and award set fior life, will I have to undergo this again in 2013 / 2014?

  15. Thanks for a thoughtful and well written article. I’ve tweeted a link to it and had it retweeted several times.
    I dread another round of having to convince medical professionals that Fibromyalgia is real.
    (Yes medical bods, I know you’re not ALL the same, but I haven’t exactly been overwhelmed with support!)

  16. I see hovic. Look at the figures and I guess the government wants to knock about ten percent of people of the DLA.
    Now think on this, how many doctors is it going to take to carry out this exercise and what happens when you receive a notice that you’re knocked of. Just think of the lines of people lining up for reviews, and think of the future court cases.
    The government may win but it will be one bloody fight.

  17. What worries me is targeting those who are unable to help themselves by aiming at them financially.

  18. What worries is me is the stress and the fiancial hardship that these people with health problems have to go through to have a Medical Assessment – stupid!

  19. I’m An Autistic Disabled Human Being; & Do You Know What, I Am Going To Boycott The Tories Budget 2010: Health Checks On Claimants For Disability Living Allowance Which Are To Be Introduced In 2013: Because I Am Genuine. PLus If/WhenThey Might Reduce Or Remove That Benefit And My Entitlement I Will Indeed Protest.

  20. I am disabled with fybromyalgia and also I have had major spinal surgery but still have bad back pain, I also have knee problems and will have to have them replaced but to young at 43 and hips pain and I have been told they will not operate on my neck as it is to dangerous. I am in bed 3/4 sometimes more a weeks with ban migraine neck pain caused by my neck problem, I have pain in my hands and have had both little fingers operated on. I hurt all the time and It will be impossible for me to work as I would be off work ill more than in work. I am depressed with this and on morpheen tablets and amitryptiline on top of normal pain killers. I am also always tired and have no sleep hardly. My whole body is in agony every day and I think it is really bad they are trying to make disabled people back to work when they cant. This is going to make a lot of people more depressed with the stress of it all.

  21. My 17 year old daughter gets DLA (she has severe cerebral palsy) and is non verbal and a wheelchair user. I have recently put her name down for a residential college (starting in September 2013) but I have read that the mobility part of the DLA will be stopped for people in “residential care”. Does anyone know if this includes schools/colleges? I was hoping to be able to get a car so I would be able to drive her there on a Monday and pick her up on a Friday. Without a car – we are buggered!

  22. Hi Heather, thanks for your question. As far as I know, I don’t believe the change to DLA for people in residential care will affect your daughter’s school/college/car issue. To be double sure, your local Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to let you know for sure. Hope this helps.

  23. What a worry!! My daughter is aged 32 and has been registered disabled since birth. She has hand/eye/balance & co-ordination problems along with a little slowness. Although outwardly she appears “normal” to other people we know her limitations and she has been at home with us all of these years. My husband and I care for her needs (not qualifying for carers allowance) and have never leant on the authorities for any help – probably saving them a fortune. How can any doctor in a quick medical test who has never seen her before know of her capabilities in life. She has her DLA set up which meets her needs we are extremely worried if she were to lose this how would it affect her when we are dead and gone we are both in our 60’s??? and not getting any younger.

  24. Addition to What a Worry!! I forgot to mention how cross my husband and I are at how the benefits scroungers of this country can get away it, why aren’t the Government chasing these people instead of the vulnerable? Both my husband and I have worked all of our lives (hubby still working and very tired)and paid into the system yet these lazy loafers get away with stealing from the system. example: Million Pound Mansion and squatters from Poland – need I say more!! are the Government knocking on their door?

  25. Thankyou for your work in bringing this information to the public arena…I recieve DLA due to mental illnes and wonder how our new assesors are going to gauge just how much we need help…
    I agree that this is about ideology than anything else…but what can we do, I feel so powerless..

  26. hi i have a son with severe autism and learning difficutes,so is his dla going to get reduced he needs consant 1 to 1 at all times with this new budget.

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