Letter: Attack on disabled

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The Independent Online
Sir: I write on behalf of a group of relatives in the Cambridge area who care for Alzheimer's patients in our own homes.

We resent becoming an easy target for Blair's welfare "reforms" ("Blair is on a mission", 15 December). By all means let him crack down on fraudulent claims, but he must not use a scattered blunderbuss attack which harms those with genuine needs.

Several of us who are under 65 have given up good jobs in order to care for a spouse or parent. In some families where both the a younger victim and a spouse who cares full-time can no longer go out to work, the financial blow is horrific: I reckon that over the course of this very long and terminal illness my husband and I together will lose quarter of a million pounds in potential earnings. Taxing or means-testing the disability living allowance (DLA) hits a family when it is down and is immoral and offensive.

All of us greeted with hollow laughter the exhortation that people on benefits should be helped back into work. As carers, we receive pounds 37.35 a week invalid care allowance for round-the-clock care of an extremely difficult nature. That works out at 22p an hour. We do a job which it would cost the state 10 times as much to provide in a residential home. Yet we carers are not allowed to earn, even if we were able to, more than pounds 50 a week clear. And the cost of buying-in a sitting service for our relative in our absence? Between pounds 5 and pounds 6 an hour.

But here's the real crunch. When a person with dementia finally enters a nursing home or mental hospital (which then claims the DLA and other pensions), it would be down to the cash-strapped social services or NHS to make up any shortfall such as that created by a means-test or tax deduction on the DLA. So all that Blair will have done is to shift part of the burden of cost from central government to local council or health services. Clever, callous, or just plain thick?

We hope that rebellious MPs will deliver the answer.

BARBARA POINTON

Thriplow, Cambridgeshire

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