Disability Living Allowance was introduced in 1992 and some much-needed context on the Welfare reform 'debate' in Britain is provided by this 1997 BBC report, which I strongly recommend no one overlooks. These benefits didn't just drop out the sky out of the kindness of Tory hearts: they were replacements for previously existing benefits which in the case of Incapacity Benefit was intended to provide stricter criteria than Invalidity Benefit. It was a partial success: Incapacity Benefit has never gone up despite what this misleading graph from the Harrington Review says.
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It was publicised at the time by disability charities, Citizens Advice and the government themselves in the build-up to the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995. A side-effect seems to be that as many previous non-claimants realised it existed, they were informed of Invalidity Benefit as well which they should have been claiming rather than Income Support(Jobseekers Allowance wasn't introduced until 1996). So there was a spike in disability benefit claims and disability spending which got the Major government worried and when your media base doesn't like graphs with lines representing spending going up, you have to be seen to be doing something and something that works. But the reasons for the spike were obvious, which made the statistical event predictable but data points don't make headlines because they don't sell newspapers because they don't get attention. That's my excuse for this little blog anyway, still waiting for my Drudge Report moment.
So there was this huge statistical blip which having a predictable cause also had a predictable end as it was simply a case of an under-claimed benefit moving up closer to what it should be. It could still be used for political capital and that's where the Connecticut Yankee 'blotting out the sun' comes back in. Incapacity Benefit had tougher criteria than Invalidity Benefit to be sure and no doubt caused some sick and disabled people a lot of strife, but that isn't why claims for this benefit category stopped; we know why that stopped and it's because there was only a certain number of eligible claimants missing out and that would cap in a short time-scale. But by replacing IB with....IB just as it happened it looked as if though this had stopped the rise and the BBC believed it.
Is the Coalition about to repeat the trick of the last Conservative government? I think so and I think I've pin-pointed exactly how. Ever since its introduction DLA has only ever gone up. Ignore the meaningless Coalition talking point about a '30% rise in the past eight years' because it's a crock that implies DLA ever had a 'normal' number of claimants. It has always been under-claimed and much of the rise can be attributed to it chasing after the set number of eligible non-claimants. But that isn't the only positive forcing effect on it because as DLA and its bill have risen, that of Attendance Allowance(AA)
It seems imperceptible but look at where the start of the green area is and where the end of the purple one is in comparison. Working-age claimants rose by about 350,000 whilst Pension-age claimants who only accounted for a third rose by over 300,000. 33% of the total DLA claimants of the last eight years account for 46.6% of the increase. What does that look like?
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So if the oldest DLA claimant in 1992 is 65, then the oldest in 1993 is 66 and so on. But DLA does not imbue anyone with immortality, there comes a point at which the oldest living DLA claimant and therefore the proportionate number of pension-age DLA claimants is capped. It's when the theoretically oldest DLA claimant has caught up with life expectancy. The DWP recently released their cohort estimates for life expectancy at age 65, but what would they need that for? Maybe it's because you can look at the life expectancy of someone who was 65 in 1992 and predict from this the point at which the mechanism that allows pensioners to claim DLA stops forcing DLA's inflation.
We have just passed the point at which men and women who were 65 in 1992 can be expected to still be alive. Most of those who have not passed away soon will, so at this point the positive forcing of claimant pensioners stops. You could make ANY changes to DLA and point to the result as having affected what is about to happen. DLA reform is going to be a disaster(more on this soon), so there is no reason why the Coalition should keep going on with it unless they can present it as a success. Now we see one way that is going to happen. Combined with the new retirement age that is coming in, the end of the forcing has been delayed by two or three years and will now coincide with the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment that replaces Disability Living Allowance.
Case File #5 finds the Coalition are treading old ground known to the Conservative Party, seemingly by coincidence copying their actions in the 90s step-by-step.