Letter: Welfare cuts

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TOM LEVITT MP states that "no future claimants of DLA [disability living allowance] and other disability benefits will see their entitlement to incapacity benefit [IB] reduced" (Letters, 14 November). This is utterly wrong. No protection has been offered to people who fail the new contribution test - regardless of how severely disabled they are. The only group who will be protected in future are IB claimants who also receive DLA highest- rate care component, ie, those who need 24-hour care. This small group, which constitutes less than 2 per cent of IB claimants, will be exempted from the pensions means test. But, of course, few people move from work one day to needing 24-hour care the next. In practice people will find their benefit is reduced by the means test over several years, while their condition deteriorates to the point where they finally qualify for the highest rate of DLA care. The vast majority of people we regard as severely disabled - double amputees, blind people, paraplegics etc - will not be protected at all.

If Mr Levitt voted for these cuts on the basis that people on DLA and those with deteriorating conditions would not be adversely affected, then he was very much mistaken.

The Government's changes will see the means test apply when a single claimant's income reaches pounds 7,943 pa and all benefit withdrawn when income reaches pounds 11,362. This will result in some severely disabled people being put in the ludicrous position of having their IB reduced by the means test to a level below that of income support. They will then have to claim income support to bring their income back up to the level it was before the IB means test was applied - and the Government calls this reform!

LORNA REITH

Disability Alliance

London E1

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