Myth busting: facts and figures (Update from previous myth buster).

A lot of myths, untruths and exaggerations are being peddled on the issue of disability benefits, particularly Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Here we set the record straight on some of the most regularly used myths for targeting cuts at disabled people support, some of which have been most recently given an airing by the Prime Minister himself:

“The fact is that we are not cutting the money that is going into disability benefits. The question is how best to reform those disability benefits so that disabled people actually get access to the benefits that they require. The reform has been led by many of the disability groups, which want to see something that is much more related to people’s disability and faster to access, too.” David Cameron, 12 September 2012

 MYTH: Disability benefits are not being cut.

 Below we use the government’s own figures to demonstrate the extent of the cuts. When the government says it is targeting money at those in “greatest need” what it means is that fewer and fewer disabled people will get the support they need.

  • The government’s own figures on the change from DLA to PIP reveals nearly one million disabled people undergoing reassessment will lose some or all of their DLA support by 2018.[1] Although it has been said that the government will continue to spend £50 billion a year on disabled people’s services and support, the fact that 1 million people who currently use DLA won’t receive as much or any support is a straightforward cut.
  • Over £2 billion will be made in savings to the Exchequer over the three years to 2015/16 from the change of DLA to PIP.[2]
  • 400,000 disabled people are due to lose their Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit by 2013/4[3] despite having paid National Insurance contributions. This will take another £1 billion a year from disabled people.
  • 420,000 disabled people will be affected by underoccupancy rules in social housing – the so called “bedroom tax”, losing some of their housing benefit depending on the number of spare bedrooms they have. These will include people who have had substantial adaptations to their home, and will affect many carers who need that spare room for their own respite and sleep. [4] Discretionary money to help disabled people in this situation falls way short of being able help all those affected.[5]
  • And only certain disability benefits and carer benefits are to be protected in the recent change to uprate most benefits by 1% in the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill. The government has estimated that an extra 50,000 disabled individuals will be considered to be in poverty under the relative income measure as a result of the Bill.  The average change for households containing a disabled person will be around -£3 a week.[6]

Furthermore 450,000 disabled people look set to lose money as part of the reforms being ushered in as part of the government’s “flagship” Universal Credit reforms. Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson’s inquiry[7] has found this includes disabled adults who live on their own and families with disabled children.

Disabled people and their carers’ have already experienced a drop in income of £500 million since the Emergency Budget of 2010[8] and most recently one calculation is that with six simultaneous welfare cuts taking place up to 3.7 million disabled people will lose £28.3 billion of support by 2018.[9]

MYTH: DLA changes are the result of consultation with disabled people.

The abolition of working age DLA was announced in the emergency budget of 2010.[10] There was no consultation with disabled people or groups prior to the announcement. It was a straightforward cut to balance the books.

When the government did eventually consult after it had decided to abolish working age DLA, a Freedom of Information Request found only 7% of consultation responses fully supported them.[11] So in fact the government is doing exactly the opposite of what disabled people have urged.

Disabled people and disability charities say they are not being listened to and as well as half a million people losing their DLA, many people will find it hard to get the new PIP benefit due to the bureaucracy involved even if they might be eligible for it.

MYTH: It’s really easy to get DLA without checks.

All DLA claimants complete a detailed claim form which is 55 pages long, where they have to provide comprehensive details of their disability, illness or condition and contacts for those who provide their care, support or treatment.

DWP’s recent figures on new claims[12] show 16% of decisions are made on the basis of the detailed information in the claim form only, and 84% of decisions use additional evidence from GPs, consultants, hospitals and others who provide care, support and treatment, or from a medical assessment with the company Atos.

Many claimants are given a fixed award due to the severity of their impairment or health condition and would be invited to reapply after that period expires. The DWP also conduct random checks on DLA claims as part of the Right Payment programme.

MYTH: People have received DLA for many years and never been checked again.

The government does not have to abolish an entire benefit in order to make sure more checks are done. It is no surprise that a very small proportion of claimants have received DLA for many years because their impairments will never change and they are living with complex needs. 91% of the disabled people receiving DLA have more than one impairment and over half (56%) have four or more impairments.[13]

The abolition of working age DLA and creation of PIP will cost huge sums: £710 million[14], in the main to be paid to private companies to undertake assessments and reassessments of many people who will simply not get better. This is where the waste of money lies.

MYTH: DLA fraud is high.

The government’s own figures “Fraud and Error in the Benefit System”[15] has shown that estimated overpayments of DLA due to fraud make up 0.5% of total spending or £60m. Overpayments due to official error – in other words mistakes by the government – are higher at 0.8%, £100 million.

It is much more likely that disabled people are not claiming the benefits they need. For example, RADAR has estimated that more than £7 billion in benefits, tax credits and grants is unclaimed every year.[16]

MYTH: £630m in DLA is overpaid every year.

All in all the official estimates of overpayment due to error for DLA is £180m, while underpayment due to error is £300m. In other words the mistakes in the system give government a £120m “profit”.[17]

So why is the government implying overpayments cost £630m instead? These figures come from a benefits review in 2005[18] where it was suggested that this could be the order of overpayment where a customer’s change in needs may have been very gradual and therefore it would be unreasonable for the overpayments to be reclaimed. However the review also pointed out that underpayments for these same reasons could be in the order of £190m.

If you take all the estimated figures government has on over and underpayments the net cost is £370m, not £630m, which includes official error. It is worth noting any potential savings using this figure will be an overestimate, as the figure relates to the entire DLA caseload ie children and those over 65 who are unaffected by the reforms.

The government does not have to abolish an entire benefit in order to make sure fewer mistakes are made. Any savings pale into comparison to the estimated £1.6 billion in that reform to DLA will cost working age disabled people over the next three years, taking into account the knock on effects of disabled people losing their work and having to rely on local services more.[19]

MYTH: The costs of DLA have become unsustainable.

The government often suggest there’s been a 30% growth in DLA claimants as one reason for abolishing working age DLA. But in August 2011 DWP revealed that growth of working age was closer to 16% once demographic changes and population growth were taken into account, for example due to the rise in older people (over 65) receiving DLA as well as children.[20] This increase is also explained by changes to help more disabled people be able to live in the community, independently (and so receive DLA to help them in day to day life).

MYTH: If you claim ESA and you are found ‘fit for work’ in the assessment you were faking it – you can’t have a serious health condition or impairment.

People can have serious health conditions or very significant levels of impairment but still be found ‘fit for work’ under the work capability assessment criteria. For example someone with heart disease and emphysema who can walk seventy or eighty metres before stopping would be likely to be found ‘fit for work’ because they would need to be able to walk less than 50 metres to score the requisite 15 points. Similarly someone who is paralysed from the waist down but can self propel a manual wheelchair more than 50 metres will be found ‘fit for work’.

Anyone who would be found fit for work will receive no more financial help from Universal Credit to cope with the extra costs of working than someone who is not disabled.

MYTH: The government wants to make independent living for disabled people a reality.

The government has been criticised for not providing an assessment of the impact that a cut in DLA/PIP resources will have on disabled people’s ability to meet basic daily costs and the “knock on” effect this will have on carers, council services and the NHS and so the impact on disabled people’s independence.[21]

Even on the simple measure of PIP payments to help disabled people meet the cost of getting out and about – the government’s forecasts that 428,000 people[22] classed as virtually unable to walk under the high rate of DLA mobility will be ineligible for the equivalent rate of PIP mobility. As DLA provides a link to other benefits, including for the specially adapted cars and scooters and transport concessions, the impact of DLA mobility loss on independence could be huge.

Only recently, under pressure, the government revealed 5000 carers would lose Carer’s Allowance (CA) under the DLA reforms.[23] This is because receipt of the Allowance is linked to cared for person being in receipt of the middle or top rate of care DLA. However, this figure only represents numbers up to 2015 – only a third of the way through reforms and when many of those on DLA are yet to be reassessed so many more thousands of carers will have their support put at risk.

Disabled people are already twice as likely to live in poverty as other citizens.[24] Disabled people face multiple barriers to leading full and active lives but the services and support are being cut.

This is not just about benefit cuts. Directors of adult social services in England say that in the last couple of years the cumulative reduction in adult social care budgets is £1.89 billion – at a time when growing pressures from rising numbers of older and disabled adults continues to grow at three per cent per year. [25]


 “People who are sick, who are vulnerable, the elderly – I want you to know we will always look after you” (Rt Hon David Cameron MP, 6 October 2010, Party Conference speech by the Prime Minister).

Fact or myth?

[1] See Reassessments and Impacts report (December 2012) Table 6 shows of hose who will be reassessed. 510,000 on DLA will receive a lower award under PIP, and 450,000 on DLA will receive no award under PIP.

[2] Department of Work and Pensions. Disability Living Allowance reform Impact Assessment (May 2012)

[3] Department of Work and Pensions, ESA time limit Impact Assessment (April 2011)

[4] Department of Work and Pensions, Housing Benefit under occupation of social housing Impact Assessment (June 2012)

[5] See National Housing Federation analysis (2013)

[6] Steve Webb MP Minister for Pensions, Hansard 11 Feb 2013 : Column 508W

[7] Tanni Grey-Thompson’s report for Citizen’s Advice, the Children’s Society and Disability Rights UK (October 2012). See

[8] Scope and Demos. Destination Unknown (October 2010)

[9] Scope and Demos, Destination Unknown (April 2013)

[11] Spartacus. Responsible Reform. (Jan 2012)

[12] Department of Work and Pensions. DLA Award Values and Evidence Use for New Claims in 2010, in Great Britain. (November 2011)

[13] Sainsbury, R et al Evaluation of Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance, 1995. Department of Social Security Research Report No. 41. See:

[14] Department of Work and Pensions. Disability Living Allowance reform Impact Assessment (May 2012)

[15] Department of Work and Pensions. Fraud and Error in the Benefit System: Preliminary 2011/12 Estimates (Great Britain) Revised Edition (2012).

[16] RADAR. Doing money differently. See page 14

[17] Department of Work and Pensions. Fraud and Error in the Benefit System: Preliminary 2011/12 Estimates (Great Britain) Revised Edition (2012).

[18] Department of Work and Pensions. Fraud, Error and other incorrectness in Disability Living Allowance (2005)

[20] See: The difference being explained by overall population growth, older disabled people retaining DLA entitlement past 65 years of age, and disabled children surviving into adulthood in greater numbers.

[21] See the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) which in March 2012 “Received evidence that impact assessments of current reforms were not adequately carried out, and did not take into account the likely cumulative impact of reforms on disabled people. We therefore argue that the Government should publish a unified assessment of the likely cumulative impact of the proposals on independent living.”

[22] See Reassessments and Impacts report (December 2012). This is calculated by comparing numbers of people who will have a payment of enhanced mobility PIP in Table 7 (602,000) and those who currently have a payment including highest rate mobility DLA in Table 8 (1,030m).

[23] See Personal Independence Payment and Carer’s Allowance  technical note (February 2013) carers-allowance.pdf

[24] Disability Poverty in the UK, Leonard Cheshire Disability, 2008.

16 thoughts on “Myth busting: facts and figures (Update from previous myth buster).

  1. I was a public meeting, in 2004, where the “New” benefits system was published,and explained.
    The meeting leader told us that when the Combined Credit would be introduced, not later then April, 2007(!!!), only people that meet the following criteria will get, or continue to get any benefits whatsoever:- 1) Missing both eyes 2) Missing both legs 3) Missing both arms.
    This is the old E4 system, once used for soldiers injured, and discharged from the British Army, in about 1947.
    The entire idea is to “save” money, at the expense of the disadvantaged. Nothing will stop the government form introducing this system.
    All protests will be met with force. kettleing is already used. Next comes water canon, and rubber bullets, after that, imprisonment,and shooting to death.
    I have one, only suggestion, Taking an idea from Gandhi, I. E. passive resistance.
    This means sitting in the middle of a busy road, or street, and doing nothing else. It takes at least two police people to remove one sitter!!
    No resistance should be shown to the police.
    Result, the justice system will soon be overloaded by prosecutions, and the prisons overcrowded with prisoners.

  2. Pingback: Myth busting: facts and figures (Update from pr...

  3. the conservites are committing suicide by lye-ing to it’s voter’s + suicide is a terroist’s favorite wepon so I’m not votting for them

  4. Hear’s yet another example of Rt Hon David Cameron reforms?,
    A neighbour living near to me had his medical assessment forms from atos and was so worried about loosing his independence he had a massive stroke and died?.
    His remaining family are devastated by this governments so called reforms????.

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