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The Government’s Green Paper on social care reform, published last month, mentions the possibility of moving some disability benefits from being a cash benefit and incorporating it into social care funding, administered on a person’s behalf by a local authority.
 
The NAS will be responding to the Green Paper. We will produce a summary of how the Green Paper proposals could affect people with autism.

Tell us what you think about the Green Paper proposals

We want to know what you think of the possibility of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) being integrated into social care funding. This will inform our official response to the Government.

To let us know your thoughts, email policy@nas.org.uk

What we think

DLA in its current form, or elements of it, is a crucial benefit for many people with autism and their families. Integrating DLA into local authority social care funding would have a profound effect on those people. We have serious concerns about the possibility of such a policy being introduced.

Many people with autism and their families rely on the money they receive from DLA, and to abolish DLA in its current form would have disastrous consequences for these groups. DLA is a non-means-tested, cash benefit, with no restrictions on use, introduced to help disabled people to cover the additional costs incurred by having a disability. Those additional costs still exist. The Green Paper does not make clear how people with disabilities would be expected to cover costs under an alternative system.

We also have concerns that people with autism and their families who have traditionally struggled to access local authority support would have similar problems accessing any new support paid for with DLA, but at the discretion of the local authority. We could experience a ‘postcode lottery’ based on local decision-making, and are concerned that some people with autism would miss out.

Furthermore, integrating DLA into local authority funding seems contrary to the Government’s personalisation agenda, as it would be taking control over spending away from individuals.

The other side of the argument is that some people who receive Attendance Allowance and DLA are already financially well off. In an environment in which local authorities are cash-strapped and using eligibility criteria to provide care to only those with the very highest support needs, perhaps this money could be better spent on making sure that lower-level services are available to those who need them?

Further information

Here are some points to consider:

  • This is a Green Paper at present. This means that it is a proposal by the Government which will be consulted upon and debated. It is not legislation. The consultation period runs until mid-November 2009. At the NAS, we understand that the way the Green Paper has been reported on some websites may lead people to assume that after the consultation period, their DLA will stop. This is not the case. If you get DLA or Attendance Allowance at the moment, we would seek to reassure you that there is no immediate threat to your entitlement within, or at the end of, the consultation period. Any changes, if any are made at all, could take years to come into force.  
  • The Green Paper refers to ‘disability benefits’. This is often taken as referring to Attendance Allowance and the care component of DLA (the mobility component is usually left out of this definition). The focus of the Green Paper though, is far more on Attendance Allowance than DLA. The inclusion of DLA is hinted at rather than made explicit, but we will monitor the situation closely to establish any proposed changes to DLA. 
  • The Green Paper consultation ends in November 2009, and will be followed by a White Paper before it can begin the legislative process. Therefore, there is very little chance that we will see legislation before the next general election. A new government formed after the election may have different ideas.
  • There is currently no legislation, or even guidance, about what  DLA or AA should be spent on. It would, therefore, be a major U-turn by the Government if they were to stop DLA and Attendance Allowance being cash benefits. If Government attempted to make this change, it would undoubtedly face strong opposition from individuals, organisations, and some politicians. It could also be challenged in the higher courts, quite possibly the European courts. 
  • The Green Paper mentions protection for existing DLA/Attendance Allowance recipients and this is a characteristic of benefit changes. ‘Transitional protection’ is quite common and means that if a benefit is amended or phased out, existing recipients of that benefit retain their entitlement to it. Again, though, this is something we will monitor closely.

Related resources

Relevant areas/articles elsewhere on this website


 http://www.nas.org.uk/nas/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=647&a=20232



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