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I have been pondering on the idea of DLA being means tested lately. A lot of people seem aghast that I am in receipt of DLA and, yet, am able to live a pretty good quality of life. Should someone like me get a contribution to my health related overhead costs? Shouldn’t such costs be increasingly self-financed as household income rises, to the point where higher rate taxpayers get nothing? I think not and here’s why.

The absolute fact is that some disability related costs become higher just because a disabled person, or their partner, works. The unavoidable costs of disability, incurred irrespective of ability to work - for carers, equipment, transport - all increase to support and sustain the time and flexibility that work necessarily occupies.

Means testing DLA just makes it absolutely harder for those with disabilities, and their partners, to work at all because they have no buffer to cover the increased costs and are unlikely to get an income high enough to both cover them and all the usual living costs. You've got to ask: are we trying to make it harder for those with disabilities to work?

Umm, no, I think not. So, let’s not means test at lower income levels perhaps? Maybe, at higher income levels, people are able to afford all the costs of disability?

Well, yes, in absolute terms, possibly, but is it fair that they should be expected to do so? An example illustrates my point:

  • Two household incomes at £50,000 per annum.
  • Post income tax (IT) and National Insurance (NI), each has c.£30,000 left
  • One household pays £10,000 for domestic care and support for a disabled family member.
  • Both households pay a mortgage, have children and other normal living costs.

Is this situation fair to the household with disability costs?

I don’t think so. Both earn the same but, after disability related costs, one has just £20,000, compared to the other’s £30,000, to cover equivalent living costs.

Currently, DLA is the mechanism that redresses such inherent unfairness. DLA is capped at, currently, just over £6,000 per annum. This is the highest rate given only to those who cannot wash, dress, eat independently etc. Most people get less. If no disability related costs are incurred, no DLA is awarded.

In my example above, DLA would not cover all the disability related costs, at this relatively wealthy £50,000 income level, just up to the cap - meaning £26,000 would be received net by the disabled household, compared to £30,000 by the non-disabled. Still a lot less to spend for the disabled family, despite the same earnings as the non-disabled one, but it does make things a little 'fairer', no?

By means testing DLA, the government will remove any support, towards unavoidable, essential costs, for those with disabilities on supposedly ‘higher’ incomes. This would make income earning disabled households even poorer, in relation to their non-disabled peers, than they are now.

So, if you are disabled and get a job: you contribute more towards health related costs than everyone else, have a lower standard of living than the non-disabled people working with you who earn the same money and you have a disability? As I have said so often, it really sucks to be disabled!

The government is seriously expecting that those with disabilities should have to earn more than their non-disabled co-workers to live an equivalent quality of life... to buck every known statistic on the effect of disability on income? How likely is that? In 2008, just 5% of income workers received a salary over £61,000. How many of those workers were disabled, do you think?

Means-testing DLA. Fair! This is surely a sick (!) joke. All about vilifying the disabled as ‘undeserving’ again. Shame on you, coalition government!

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