It looks like Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Health, has ruled out any use of DLA (Disability Living Allowance) to fund a ‘national care service’. DLA is one of the few non-means tested benefits that is provided to people aged under 65 who have ongoing mental or physical health difficulties over a long term.
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There have been campaigns to protect DLA and Attendance Allowance (the equivalent benefit for over 65s) but, worryingly, no mention has been made about Attendance Allowance and I can’t help thinking this is either because it is proving too expensive or that those who receive it have quieter voices to engage when shouting.
It was suggested earlier in the year that funding for a more comprehensive and ‘fairer’ system of paying for care would leave DLA at risk however this might have proved to be just too politically sensitive at a time when it has been to be fair game to pick on benefits for those who are sick.
I remain concerned about the lack of commenting on Attendance Allowance though. Already those who are over 65 receive less in payment for exactly the same presentations of disabilities as those under 65 and it remains one of the more obvious ‘age discriminations’ in the ‘system’. We are told that the costs would escalate if the same criteria and funding were applied to those under 65 as those over 65 but it becomes something of a game and a reason for more inequities across the board.
If someone applies for DLA before their 65th birthday they retain the higher rated allowances for the rest of their lives whereas if they wait and claim one day after their 65th birthday, the receive the lower Attendance Allowance for life.
I remember one woman I worked with whose daughter was furious that she was only advised to claim a month or two after her 65th birthday, meaning she had lost out on the higher ‘lifetime benefit’ she would have had under DLA. We are advised to recommend making applications for these benefits as soon as we become involved but often this is after 65.
I hope very much that the differences between treatment of Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance will be addressed. Especially as, in the same speech, Burnham vowed to abolish age discrimination in the Health Service.