The Future of Disability Benefits, Social Care and Welfare Reform

The Future of Disability Benefits, Social Care and Welfare Reform
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Date(s) - 14/04/2011
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Nuffield Foundation

A public debate on reform of disability benefits and social care funding, kindly hosted by the Nuffield Foundation.

Date and time: 16.00-18.00, April 14th, 2011

Location: The Nuffield Foundation, 28 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3JS

There is longstanding and wide-ranging consensus that the social care system in England and Wales is under-funded. In this context, a number of social care policy analysts have sought to examine how disability-related public expenditure could be better spent. The result has been a groundswell of opinion in recent years that public spending on disability benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should instead be transferred to a reformed social care system built around Personal Budgets.

In part, this argument has rested on an absence of evidence regarding who claims Attendance Allowance (AA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and how this money is used.

A perceived reluctance by DWP to consider changes to expenditure on disability benefits has seen some stakeholders within the social care debate accuse the department of ‘institutional hoarding’: refusing to hand over revenue that could achieve better outcomes for disabled users if it were allocated via the social care system.

Nevertheless, the evidence base has grown recently, and defenders of AA and DLA have highlighted the fact that these payments help far more people than receive support in the social care system, and are particularly important to lower-income households.

As a result, and in the face of widespread nervousness among disability-groups regarding any kind of change, the future of disability benefits remains a contested and emotive topic in the long-term care funding debate.

However, the context for this debate is now evolving dramatically. First, the DWP has proposed replacing DLA with Personal Independence Payments, which will be built around far more detailed and objective assessments of individual need, and will much more closely resemble Direct Payments in social care.

Second, in the context of the once-in-a-generation welfare reform represented by Universal Credit, it is likely that DWP policymakers will be keen for any cuts in spending on disability benefits to be used to bolster this flagship policy.

With a social care White Paper due before the end of the year, policymakers are now reaching crunch-time regarding this complex issue. If disability benefits expenditure is to be transferred across to a reformed social care system, when will this take place and what will be the trade-offs involved? If the DWP retains control of disability benefits and two separate systems persist, how can the user experience, outcomes and interface between the two systems be improved, for example, by merging assessment systems and sharing data?

This debate will therefore explore:

  • What are the pros and cons for re-directing public spending on disability benefits from the welfare system to the social care system? Who would be the winners and losers? What would be the transition costs?
  • What are the potential policy scenarios as simultaneous reform to long-term care funding, disability, pensions and unemployment-benefits all now intersect?
  • How likely is it that any change to disability benefits will prove so politically toxic as inhibit reform? What can be done to mitigate this scenario?

Speakers at this event comprised:

  • Professor Julien Forder, PSSRU
  • Professor Ruth Hancock, University of East Anglia
  • Professor Mike Brewer, Institute for Social and Economics Research (ISER), University of Essex
  • Andy Harrop, Director of Policy, Age UK

The event was chaired by James Lloyd, Director, Strategic Society Centre

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