There isn’t much to say other than that I’m very sad that the Lords have failed to delay the destruction of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Despite the compelling evidence and testimonies of disabled people and the articulate advocacy of individuals, the Welfare Reform Bill passed through the Upper Chamber earlier today.
The Lords voted by 229 to 213, a government majority of just 16, to reject an amendment tabled by Lady Grey-Thompson, one of Britain’s most successful disabled athletes, who proposed a pilot of the changes before they could be rolled out across the country.
It’s estimated that 500,000 disabled people stand to lose a benefit that’s critical to maintaining their basic wellbeing and safety. Don’t let the word ‘reform’ fool you: this isn’t about strengthening a system – it’s about slashing support for the people who need it most. Here’s what my day would be like without the things my DLA helps pay for:
My morning cup of tea would get spilt everywhere because I wouldn’t have the lidded cup that stops me soaking myself with scalding liquid. Without these cups, over the day I’d have to do more outfit changes than Beyoncé on an arena tour.
If I slipped and fell in the shower I wouldn’t be able to call for help because there’d be no wireless alarm.
My wardrobe would be without some crucial safety features: I wouldn’t have my padded gloves so my hands would be bleeding from banging my chest. Without my knee pads my knees wouldn’t last long either because of the hundreds of sudden falls I have every day. Within hours my jeans would be ripped to shreds, and my knees would be bleeding to match my hands.
If I still had the support of Access to Work, which isn’t funded by DLA, I’d go by cab to work with my support worker. But we wouldn’t have the emergency bag with the things I need when I have a ‘ticcing fit’. Without them, when I had a fit my skull would go smack on the floor because there’d be no protective helmet, nor extra cushions or medication.
If I made it through the working day without these crucial supports I’d go straight home. I wouldn’t be able to do anything else because I wouldn’t be able to afford other cabs so I couldn’t visit friends, go swimming or go shopping.
If I still had my social services-funded night time support worker, where would they sleep, if I couldn’t afford to provide a bed for them?
Many more disabled people would need support from social services were they to lose DLA, so would I even have a support worker to hold me still when I fit in the night? Would an overstretched occupational therapy service have been able to provide my bath-lift or the grab rail in my hall?
If Access to Work didn’t fund my daytime support workers, I wouldn’t have a job. I wouldn’t be able to earn a living so I’d have to claim income support, and even worse, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love doing – helping children and young people enjoy their lives at the projects I manage.
What hope would be left for what’s left of me?
I’m sad that today equality took a step backwards. But I’m heartened and inspired by the creative and powerful campaign undertaken by so many disabled people.
I know the battle is bigger than this one defeat. But tonight I’m going to bed more fearful than usual about the future.