To most people Spartacus was just a famous historical figure, leader of a revolt of the slaves against the Roman republic, and hero of numerous film and TV dramas. To an ever-increasing number of people Spartacus now means the last chance to save Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
The Spartacus Report was produced by disabled activists to challenge the government’s dangerous and unfair proposals to replace DLA with a new benefit called a Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The report highlights the flaws in the consultation process and reveals how the views of disabled people and disability organisations have been at best ignored and at worst wilfully misrepresented.
The underlying reason for the abolition of DLA is that the government has pledged to slash the number of people receiving it by 20% on the grounds that they don’t deserve it, even though fraudulent claims are estimated to be very low, at just 0.5%. This means at least 19.5% of disabled children and adults who currently and legitimately receive DLA will lose it. The impact of their disability won’t be reduced but their ability to manage its impact on their lives will.
DLA is a benefit that helps meet the additional costs caused by having a disability. It’s not means-tested or linked to being out of work. The eligibility criteria and rates of payment are dependent on the assessed care needs of each individual. From my experience the assessment process is rigorous, thorough, clear and fair.
In the last year my tics have meant I’ve had to move home, adjust to constant support from friends, family and professionals, deal with regular injuries and challenge disrespectful or abusive behaviour towards me. DLA has allowed me to be pragmatic in the face of all this. It means, for instance, that I can get a cab if I’m having a ‘ticcing fit’ or buy the protective clothing I need. For me DLA helps keep me safe and supports me to keep working. It enables me to continue being an active member of my community. Without it I, along with so many other disabled people, would be at even greater risk of injury, isolation and unemployment.
I’ve written before about the inspired online campaigns, historic marches and personal testimonies that’ve been undertaken by many people across the country to fight for what to them isn’t a ‘benefit’ but is the essential means of staying independent, living safely and having a decent quality of life.
Tomorrow the Lords vote on the Welfare Reform Bill that contains the proposal to abolish DLA. I hope with every bit of my being that they take heed of the Spartacus Report and rebel against the government.
The fact is, this isn’t just an issue for disabled people. It should be a concern for anyone with a conscience or an ounce of empathy, who understands that we all have a brain that can get damaged or a body that can fail. I would hate for someone in the future to have to face the challenges I’ve been facing, but with no DLA to rescue them. This isn’t a time for just one Spartacus, but for many.