Kesgrave/Ipswich: Fears over effects of benefits cuts on young disabled people

KESGRAVE/ IPSWICH: Cuts to disability benefits could “severely” reduce the quality of life of more than 1,000 young disabled people in Suffolk, rendering them prisoners in their care homes, the Evening Star can today reveal.

Government proposals to slash the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people in residential care was announced as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review last October.

Parents concerned for their children’s future today accused the government of consigning their children to a life “behind closed doors”.

Tony and Fiona Byam, and Kenneth and Mary Elvin are today standing up for their daughters – because they cannot do it for themselves.

Both have daughters called Louise and both women have severe disabilities that require full-time care.

Louise Byam, 25, and 27-year-old Louise Elvin both live at Hope House in Kesgrave, run by disability charity Optua.

For the young women, the allowance is the difference between being institutionalised, trapped inside their care home, and being able to travel to see friends and participate in society.

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The pair receive the higher rate of the mobility allowance, �49.85 each week, reflecting the seriousness of their disabilities.

The money helps to fund a specialist minibus for the four residents at Hope House, as well as other transport costs.

Mr Byam, a civilian manager for Suffolk police, said his daughter loves swimming, horse riding and trampolining.

She is profoundly disabled, both mentally and physically, but Mr Byam explained she is “a healthy young person” who, despite the difficulties she faces, thrives on new experiences.

“When Louise gets up she wants something to happen,” said Mr Byam. “She loves getting out and about and hates to feel she is being held back.

“She gets very frustrated and hits herself and can self-harm if she is unhappy.”

Mr Byam and Mr Elvin share the view that the government has made a sweeping generalisation by aiming the cut at the elderly who may not venture out as often, forgetting young disabled people.

They are calling for the government to rethink their plans and make the cuts means-tested, assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Linda Hoggarth, chairman of Optua, said the plans represent a “particularly cruel cut which targets some of the most vulnerable people in the community who have little opportunity to speak for themselves”.

Central Suffolk and north Ipswich MP Dan Poulter said the changes are aimed at allocating money in a more “targeted and appropriate way”.

He said: “The mobility component of the disability living allowance is primarily targeted at helping people living in their own homes to be able to travel, move around and interact with their local communities.

“This would include helping people with disabilities to attend day centres and community groups as well as get to the shops.

“Clearly there is less of a requirement for people living in specialised care homes, as in the case of Hope House, to travel on a daily or even weekly basis.

“In these cases, the government is committed to putting �1billion into adult social care, but it must be done in the right way, and the money must go into the day-to-day care of people in residential homes.”

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