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TX: 29.04.04 – NEW CAMPAIGN TO CHANGE AGE RESTRICTION ON DISABILITY LIVING ALLOWANCE

PRESENTER: DIANA MADILL



THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY

MADILL
The age you get a disabling condition like MS, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy and so on can make all the difference to the type of benefit and therefore the amount of money you qualify for from the Government. So much is the difference in the amount between the Disability Living Allowance and the Attendance Allowance, for instance, that 22 charities have launched a campaign called Mobilise, to change things.

It happens because people who claim the DLA before they're 65 can continue to get it after they're 65. Now if you try to claim it after 65 you only get the AA - the Attendance Allowance - which is worth roughly about half the amount.

Well let's hear from two people, both with motor neurone disease but on different amounts of money because of the age they were diagnosed with their illnesses.

COOPER
I'm Tim Cooper. I'm 65 and I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease two and a half years ago.

STOUT
I'm Anthea Stout. I'm 68 and I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease last year in June, although I was falling before I was 65 but it wasn't diagnosed.

COOPER
My speech, as you can hear, is the most obvious thing. I do have a machine to help me speaking, like Stephen Hawking, but I prefer not to use it.

STOUT
My speech is still alright but I can't walk at all and from being a very active person I now am restricted to a wheelchair. I can't dress myself, I can't sit up in bed, I can't move from one place to another.

COOPER
Because I was diagnosed before the age of 65 I'm now on Disability Living Allowance which comprises higher rate care component for help with personal care of £58.80 a week and the higher rate mobility component for help with getting around of £41.05, that totals £99.85 per week.

STOUT
Because I was over 65 when I was diagnosed I'm only able to get Attendance Allowance and that is £58.80 full stop. Tim gets £99.85.

COOPER
Basically I'm £41 better off than Anthea, which is the mobility component which allows me a purchase of a car, free road tax and basically anything else connected with moving around.

STOUT
I get none of those. We've just had to purchase an adapted vehicle out of our savings. It doesn't matter what age you are, you should be able to get the same help.

MADILL
And that was Anthea Stout and Tim Cooper. Well joining us now is Lorna Reith from the Disability Alliance, which is supporting the Mobilise campaign. How come this discrepency has come about?

REITH
Well really it dates back many years and it arises out of a very outdated view of older people's lives. I think it originated at a time when 65 was the end of people's working lives and they were expected just to sort of begin to close down their aspirations and their expectations about what they wanted from life.

MADILL
And the Government thought that you didn't move around when you were over 65 so you didn't need the mobility component of this.

REITH
There probably wasn't even a deliberate thought, in much the same way as until women started complaining about not being paid the same amount as men no one thought there was anything wrong in it. But of course now government is talking about active ageing, it's talking about having a flexible retirement age and we all know that people plan for their retirement and they have a whole range of hopes and aspirations - they want to travel, they want to spend time with their grandchildren, they expect to have an active life.

MADILL
How many people do you estimate are affected by this discrepancy?

REITH
Well the figures that we've got are that if the mobility component was extended to people over 65 there would be about £1.3 million people who would get that and about a further 300,000 would get the lower rate care component, which is also something that people over 65 can't get at the moment.

MADILL
So it would cost the Government quite a bit?

REITH
It would, it would cost over £3 billion.

MADILL
You see they say they have to drawn the line somewhere - Maria Eagle, the minister, says: The aim of Disability Living Allowance - this is the one with the mobility part to it - is to give you extra help when you are considerably disadvantaged by being disabled relatively early in life and you face limited opportunities to work, earn and save compared with their able bodied peers. If you get your disability over the age of 65 chances are you've worked beforehand and you've saved up a bit.

REITH
Well this is a very strange argument that they've come up with, which I've not heard them put forward before. I think they've confused two benefits, to be perfectly honest, Incapacity Benefit, which is what you get if you're unable to work, does give you a higher amount if you're younger, on the basis that your earning capacity's been reduced. Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance have a completely different purpose, which is to contribute towards the extra costs that you face. They're not supposed to be used by people to put aside for their pension and so on, they're supposed to be used for people to cover those extra costs that they have because they're disabled. The fact that you have those extra costs when you're 66, rather than 64, shouldn't really mean you get a different level of money.

MADILL
You don't think you should draw the line at all on anybody's life, as regards age?

REITH
No I don't think you should. I mean we appreciate that this is going to be a costly exercise, what we'd like to do is to sit down with government and say okay be honest this is about the money, let's look at a way of phasing in this change, we know it can't happen overnight. We could also look at the savings that would be made as people become more independent and make less demands on health and social services.

MADILL
Lorna Reith thank you very much indeed.

REITH
Thank you.




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