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DISABILITY minister Maria Miller has spoken out in defence of the Government’s welfare reform proposals.

Talking exclusively to All Together NOW! the minister put the case for one of the bill’s most controversial plans – replacing Disability Living Allowance, which provides up to £125 weekly towards the extra costs that disability brings, with a new Personal Independent Payment.

“DLA reform is a big issue,” she said.

“But I can give readers a great deal of reassurance. We will continue to spend the same amount on DLA in future as we did last year – £12 billion. But we are reducing the extraordinary rate of growth of DLA to something which is sustainable.

“I have concerns in the way that some organisations are talking about the changes, because their views are causing real concern to disabled people. The reforms we are talking about will be about improving what is a broken benefit.”

The Minister said that some of the major disability organisations involved in the recent London march were also very much involved in helping to shape the new reforms.

“We are working hand in hand with disabled people’s organisations and disabled people in redesigning DLA.

“I meet people from every major disability organisation on a regular basis and we have been through the reforms in great detail.

“Many of the organisations involved in the recent London march are actually working directly with me and colleagues on reforming the system so that it best reflects the needs of disabled people.

“Organisations like Radar and Mind and other disabled-led organisations have been working with me for many, many months.

“In fact, they are not just working with us . . . they are shaping the way we reform DLA, shaping the assessment processes, and working with us hand in hand.

“It is only by working with disabled people’s organisations and disabled people that we have been able to produce such strong reforms.”

So why is it necessary to scrap DLA and replace it with Personal Independence Payments?

“Our research shows that people find DLA to be a very complex benefit – the application runs to some 40 to 50 pages long and it’s difficult to complete.

“The subjective nature of the assessment is leading to different outcomes for people, and is not necessarily consistent.

“Secondly, I am concerned there is no inbuilt reassessment of people’s cases.

“Yes, there will be some cases where people’s conditions won’t change, but for the majority their conditions do change. This leads to individuals receiving too little or too much support.

“Research also revealed that £600m was overpaid in DLA to disabled people – but there was also £190m underpaid because of people’s changing conditions that had not been recognised.

“Thirdly, we have to make sure the support is sustainable into the future. The government spends £40 billion a year supporting disabled people. DLA is £12 billion of that figure – more than the entire UK road budget.

“The money must go to people who need it most to lead independent lives.”

Regarding the assessment procedures for the new benefit, the Minister said: “We are now looking at the detail of how the assessment process will work.

“There may be some people for whom there is sufficient medical evidence that they have severe disabilities and it would be inappropriate for them to come in and have a face-to-face assessment.

“But for the vast majority it is important for them to have the opportunity to talk about other support they might need. The assessments will be a positive way of signposting people to additional support – especially people with multiple conditions.”