The 1.8 million people of working age who claim disability living allowance have come out as big losers from the budget. This group, whose numbers have risen by more than 40% since 1997, will be forced to undertake a medical assessment to ensure only those who need it can claim the benefit. Worth on average £70 a week, the costs of DLA to the taxpayer have quadrupled to £11bn a year. Three times as many claim as when the benefit was introduced 18 years ago. DLA claimants can be working, as the benefit pays out in recognition of the disability and for a carer.
Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, has already made it clear that he believes applying tougher tests will force large numbers back into the labour force, despite misgivings about the medical assessments used and doubts about the efficacy of the jobs programme. The powerful disabled lobby say that they are being unfairly scapegoated, as the same benefit for carers, attendance allowance, has not been targeted, and that the proposal to introduce a new medical assessment for DLA appears designed purely to reduce the number of people eligible.