Support group leader slams disability reforms

An elderly people support group leader has damned government disability allowance reforms as merely “sweetening a poison pill”.

The coalition has said it is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in a bid to better target support on those who needed it most.

Ramesh Verma, chief executive of ethnic minority support group EKTA, said: “The people we represent do not speak much English so they will not know how to access these benefits.”

Ms Verman said that the changes were merely “sweetening a poison pill” after her group had lost 25 per cent of its government funding and that it remained to be seen whether the reforms would offer more support for the elderly people she represented.

The EKTA head’s outburst followed a claim by Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, that everyone would receive the correct support.

The minister said: “The number of people claiming DLA has soared but it’s clear that the right support is not always getting to those who need it most.

“DAL needs to help disabled people live independently and remove the barriers that they face in day-to-day life.”

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West Ham MP Lyn Brown said: “The Government’s policy on disability benefits is chaotic, confusing and unfair. The Welfare Reform Bill will remove DLA mobility support to people in residential care and could leave many with as little as �22 a week. Reassessing 1.8million working age people on DLA will also cost the Exchequer �675m. Money should not be wasted assessing severely disabled people that need financial support. This Government is cutting too far and too fast.’

According to government figures, the number of people claiming DLA in Newham has increased by 15 per cent in eight years from 11,860 in 2002 to 13,630 in November 2010.

Newham has the second largest number of DLA claimants in London, behind Croydon with 14,560.

The minister said: “We are committed to ensuring that the �12billion spent on DLA every year goes to where it can make the most difference.

“Our reforms will make it simpler and easier to understand and will mean that we will have more contact with people so that if their condition changes they can get the extra help and support they might need.

“We are working with disabled people and disability organisations on our reforms to make sure we get them right.”