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HIV charity concerned at disability allowance reforms

PinkNews Staff Writer June 22, 2010

The HIV/AIDS charity National AIDS Trust has said it is “very concerned” at a Budget announcement that Disability Living Allowance will be reformed.

Chancellor George Osborne made his Budget speech today and said the allowance would be reformed from 2013/2014.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is awarded to disabled people in recognition of the extra day-to-day costs they incur because of their disability.

It costs more than £11bn a year and is claimed by three times as many people today as when it was introduced 18 years ago.

Mr Osborne announced that new and existing claimants for the allowance will have to undergo medical assessments in order to qualify for it.

NAT said that measures to cut the number of people claiming DLA could have a “dramatic impact” on those living with HIV and said many HIV-positive people recently underwent reassessment of their eligibility for the allowance.

Deborah Jack, NAT chief executive, said: “I am very concerned by the announcement that from 2013 Disability Living Allowance will be targeted only at those with the highest medical need. For many people living with HIV, this benefit provides the additional financial support they need to maintain their health and stop them falling into poverty.

“HIV is a complex fluctuating condition which cannot easily be assessed and any forthcoming medical assessment for this benefit will need to take into account the specific needs of people living with HIV. I hope the government will consult fully with people living with HIV and the organisations that support them when considering how to implement this change.”

Last week, NAT and the Terrence Higgins Trust warned that vital HIV services may be cut in the government’s plans to save money.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles announced in a written ministerial statement that the £25 million HIV/AIDS support grant will not be ringfenced this year.

The grant is given to local authorities to pay for services specific to people with HIV, such as counselling, peer support, staff training, support for carers and respite care.

Ringfencing the money means it must be spent on a specific service, rather than the local authority being free to spend it on what it sees fit.

HIV campaigners say those living with the disease often face prejudice in mainstream health services and older people in particular can be fearful of using them.

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