Public still has time for its say on DLA cuts
In Northern Ireland there are around 182,000 people who are in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). There is a higher prevalence of disability here than in the rest of the United Kingdom and for many people this benefit represents a vital source of income that covers the extra costs of disability.
The UK Government intends to reduce entitlement to DLA and with this in mind a public consultation was opened by the Department for Work and Pensions on December 6, 2010. This consultation will end on February 14, 2011.
Initially this consultation was open only for England, Scotland and Wales but was later opened in Northern Ireland on December 16 by Social Development Minister Alex Attwood.
It appears most of the disability organisations here do not seem to have caught up with this. Although reference is made to the consultation on some of their websites, the presumption remains we are not included in this consultation.
There are links to the consultation document, but this document is the same one that was issued on December 6 and it states clearly that this consultation is open to England, Scotland and Wales and "Northern Ireland is a devolved matter".
It should be made clear to anyone in Northern Ireland that they can respond to this consultation simply by logging on to the Department for Social Development website to read the document.
Replies can then be submitted, but only in writing. There is no online facility for making replies on its website but such a facility is available on the Department for Work and Pensions website and this can be accessed by logging on and obtaining a password.
Why are those organisations that 'campaign' on disability matters not up to date with this information? It appears the inclusion of Northern Ireland in this consultation was an afterthought.
Not only do people in Northern Ireland have a shorter time to reply to this consultation but many may be simply unaware they can do so.
The consequences for people who rely on Disability Living Allowance will entail untold hardship and progressive impoverishment if these reforms go ahead.