Saturday, 8 January 2011

Cuts to disability benefits could breach human rights laws

Plans to cut disability benefits could breach human rights laws, the government has been warned. Ministers want to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new Personal Independence Payment. The change would mean new assessment tests for claimants who would also need to have had a condition for six months. Disability lawyer Mike Charles has told the BBC that the moves could be unlawful if they denied individuals the right to quality of life.

Mr Charles said: "The human rights act says individuals have a right to family life, have a right to a quality of life, the whole purpose of the DLA is to put them on an equal playing field with everyone else. Any proposal that fails to appreciate those fundamental rights could find it is an infringement of the law. My view is even if its not against the letter of the law, it is against the spirit of the law." His opinion is backed up by other specialist disability lawyers.

Charities including Disability Alliance claim the proposals are not about simplifying the system but are about removing 380,000 claimants from it. Disability charity Scope said it was unhappy that the mobility component of the DLA for care home residents, which supports people who need help getting around, would be scrapped.

Scope chief executive Richard Hawkes said: "We would say that that is quite a callous decision. It will result in people being prisoners in their own homes, they won't be able to do those daily things that everybody else would take for granted."

The government, which claims the changes could reduce spending by 20%, says it is committed to helping disabled people live independent lives and that the changes are needed. The proposals are part of a consultation process that ends on 14 February.

BBC News