9 January 2011

A leading disability lawyer has told the BBC that the Coalition’s proposed cuts to disability living allowance (DLA) could be in breach of claimants’ human rights.

The government plan a range of cuts to DLA, including:

Removing the mobility component from people in residential care;

Stopping the mobility component of DLA for people who spend more than 28 days in hospital, even if they have a Motability contract;

Replacing DLA with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment and reducing the number of awards by at least 20% by making the eligibility criteria much harsher.

Disability lawyer Mike Charles told the BBC:

"The human rights act says individuals have a right to family life, have a right to a quality of life, the whole purpose of the DLA is to put them on an equal playing field with everyone else.

"Any proposal that fails to appreciate those fundamental rights could find it is an infringement of the law.

"My view is even if its not against the letter of the law, it is against the spirit of the law."

However, much will depend on how the new legislation is prepared and drafted and there is no doubt that the government will be able to obtain legal opinions that any changes are not in breach of human rights law.  

Moreover, any challenges to changes in DLA legislation are likely to take years to work their way through the UK and European judicial system.  And with proposed cuts in legal aid funding, including the removal of welfare benefits advice from the legal aid system entirely, support for taking cases to the highest courts may be very hard to find.

So, whilst legal challenges to benefits cuts may be a valuable long-term weapon, they are unlikely to bring much immediate relief from the current onslaught against sick and disabled claimants.

Full story on BBC website


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