Don’t misuse your disability benefits – the DWP might
Oh dear. At a time when the Tory party is desperately trying to shake off its ‘Nasty Party’ image, this turns up on our doormat – literally.
This is a letter from the DWP, the government department responsible for, among other things, benefits. It is a routine letter that was sent to my mother as a claimant of Disability Living Allowance (on behalf of my disabled brother) containing a thinly veiled threat to take my brother into care if she didn’t do as the DWP said.
The opening paragraph states that they, the DWP, “are writing to review your role. We want to ensure the appointeeship is working well and that there are no issues we need to address”. As far as we know, this disgraceful missive was sent out to the parent or guardian of every child in receipt of DLA when renewing their claim. This new letter, the ‘BF57B’, was recently introduced by the DWP and the form has to be signed and returned before the claim can move forward.
It is, in my opinion, a particularly damning indictment of the government’s attempt to demonise those on benefits, and particularly the disabled: to portray them as lazy, feckless scroungers. The letter ordered my mother to “always act in the best interests of the child”, then gave her a bullet point list of what this included, such as “manage and spend any money from Disability Living Allowance in a way that best serves [the child’s] best interests”.
Effectively, the DWP is assuming my mum would, (had she not received the letter), be spending my brother’s money on cigarettes, alcohol, and satellite TV. Is assuming the worst of a parent claiming benefits not rather insulting? It is also worth noting she has never received such a letter telling her how to spend the child tax credits received for her two children without disabilities nor was she sent it with the annual child benefit award notice.
Believe it or not, it gets worse. Underneath this bullet point list, is the sentence “We will review your status as an appointed person if we think that you are not acting in the best interests of the person named above.”My mother has not been ‘appointed’. She claims DLA on behalf of my younger brother because she is his mother – he is only seven so can’t receive the funds directly. In both my mother’s opinion, and my own, what they’re essentially saying is: ‘we will take your child away from you if you don’t spend this money properly’.
It is also worth remembering that the DWP itself cannot enter our house to check if my mum is a fit mother and they certainly cannot remove parental responsibility; only social services in conjunction with the courts can do this. When my mother called to ask what this meant, they replied that a member of staff from the local office may call her to arrange a house visit to check she was, basically, a fit mother to which they added: “you wouldn’t believe the hundreds and thousands who spend the money on themselves.”
The DWP has assumed because my mother is claiming disability benefits on behalf of a disabled child she is going to use the DLA for herself and has been threatened by the DWP accordingly.
Does this not act as direct evidence of – at least some – demonisation toward the disabled? Research for the charity Scope found that 46% of the 500 disabled people, their carers and parents polled, said people’s attitude towards them had worsened in the last year. Nearly two-thirds (64%) said they had experienced aggression, hostility or name calling. When asked what could be contributing towards such hostility, 87% singled out people claiming disability benefits to which they are not entitled.
A spokesman for the DWP told the BBC: “We are careful about the language we use, as it’s clear that the benefit system itself has trapped many people in a spiral of welfare dependence.”
They added: “And whilst we already have laws in place to ensure equality, we need to work together and do more to change negative attitudes.”
Perhaps the DWP could look a little closer to home whilst they are “working to change negative assumptions” about disabled people and their families and stop sending out letters that assume the parents of disabled children are lazy, feckless scroungers.Tagged in: benefits, disability, Disability Living Allowance, DWP
Recent Posts on Notebook
- World Aids Day 2013: No time for complacency
- Barking Blondes: The health of the Hound Pound
- On the ground in the Philippines: It will be years until there’s even a semblance of normality for the people affected
- Barking Blondes: Chewing on technology
- The true cost of divorce: The growing problem of hidden assets
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter