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UK Government Failure to Protect Disabled from Welfare Cuts

  • Publish Date : 2012/10/25 - (Rev. 2013/06/13)
  • Author : Hardest Hit Campaign

Synopsis:

Report exposes how UK Government welfare cuts are hitting disabled people with many losing their Disability Living Allowance.

Main Document

A report published 22 October, 2012 exposes how the UK Government's welfare cuts are hitting disabled people hardest: 8 in 10 (85 per cent) claim losing their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) would drive them into isolation, and would leave them struggling to manage their condition (84 per cent) and 9 in 10 (95 per cent) fear that losing DLA would be detrimental to their health.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) - and Attendance Allowance (AA) are for people who have a disability and as a result need help with personal care (care component) or getting around (mobility component) or both. The allowance is to help with the extra cost of personal care (for example, washing, dressing and bathing) or for supervision or getting around. It does not include help with activities such as shopping or housework. DLA is paid at different rates depending on how much help you need because of your disability or terminal illness. You may need a medical assessment to work out what you need. You can apply for DLA whether or not you work and it's for children or adults. Special rules apply to people who are not expected to live longer than six months due to a terminal illness. If a person qualifies for benefit under the special rules provision, they will qualify for personal care automatically even if no help is needed. They do not need to satisfy the three month qualifying period or six month prospective test. Disability Living Allowance is normally paid directly into any account of your choice which accepts Direct Payment of benefits. This might be a bank, building society or other account provider.

The Hardest Hit, a coalition of over 90 disabled people's organizations and charities, has produced the report The Tipping Point which brings together a survey of over 4,500 disabled people, a poll of more than 350 independent welfare advisers, and more than 50 in-depth interviews with disabled people with varying conditions and impairments.

The report reveals some shocking statistics:

  • Nearly 9 in 10 (87 per cent) disabled people said their everyday living costs are significantly higher because of their condition
  • More than three quarters (78 per cent) of disabled people said their health got worse as a result of the stress caused by their Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Two thirds (65 per cent) of disabled people felt that ESA assessors did not understand their condition
  • Nearly 9 in 10 (87 per cent) welfare advisers said the constant re-assessments for benefits are damaging people's health
  • 9 in 10 (90 per cent) welfare advisers said that too many disabled people are slipping through the net and are left without adequate support by the welfare system.

Despite much hype about the recent Paralympic Games seemingly shifting the nation's perception of the UK's 11 million disabled people, the number of disability hate crime incidents in England and Wales is increasing dramatically and a survey reveals plummeting levels of public support for benefits for disabled people who cannot work - (Sources: Office for Disability Issues (ODI) 2010-11; Association of Police Officers hate crime data for 2011; British Social Attitudes 2012, NatCen Social Research).

The report highlights that disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty and even a small loss of income can tip people with a disability into greater dependence on health and social care services or friends and family.

It's predicted that Britain's 3.6 million people claiming disability benefits will be £9 billion worse off from 2010 to the end of this Parliament, with an estimated 500,000 disabled people expected to lose out when DLA becomes Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in April 2013 (Source: Destination Unknown, Demos 2012). The Government claims it will claw back about £2.2 billion but the Hardest Hit coalition estimates the potential costs of abolishing DLA will be about £1.6 billion, meaning the savings are a mere drop in the ocean compared with the £9 billion being lost in tax evasion and avoidance [ Source: Measuring Tax Gaps, HMRC 2011. A full explanation about how the £1.6 billion figure is calculated can be found on page 48 in the report ].

Blind mum-of-three Terri Balon, 51, from Lancashire, relies on her disability benefits to survive. She said:

"I get £105.90 a week from DLA to run my house but more than half of that goes on paid assistance where a carer comes round for 12 hours a week. Once they discovered a jam jar full of fly eggs where my daughters, two of whom have sight loss, hadn't resealed it properly. I would never have noticed. Can you imagine what it would have been like if I'd eaten them. I don't go out, I don't drink, I don't have money for treats. Am I supposed to not eat now if my benefits are cut". And it doesn't end there. Around 450,000 disabled households are set to lose out under the new Universal Credit (UC) system. For example, 100,000 families with disabled children stand to lose up to £28 a week (Disability and Universal Credit, 2012).

The Hardest Hit coalition is calling on the Government to rule out targeting disabled people for further spending cuts in the next Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Government has some urgent decisions to make. It isn't saving the money it predicts it will by targeting disabled people; it's hemorrhaging millions and must change its approach. For instance, the cost to the Tribunals Service of ESA appeals in 2010-11 was approximately £42.2 million for 176,600 ESA appeals decided in 2010-11. The coalition wants the Government to:

  • Learn from the mistakes it made with WCA and ensure the assessment for PIP is as fair and as clear as possible to avoid costly tribunals, more anxiety and ill health
  • Get Universal Credit (UC) right, ensuring disabled people don't lose out on vital income in the transition to UC
  • Provide a lasting solution to the crisis in social care which has endured years of chronic underfunding.

Jaspal Dhani, CEO of the UK Disabled People's Council (UKDPC) and co-chair of the Hardest Hit campaign, said: "Disabled people, those with long-term conditions and their families are already at risk of hardship and face massive barriers to getting into work and education. Cuts to the support they depend upon risk pushing them into poverty, debt and isolation.

"The Chancellor has just announced a further £10 billion cut to the welfare budget. With £9 billion having already been removed from disability benefits and services in this Parliament, disabled people are already at a tipping point. The Government has some urgent choices to make, but must rule out targeting disabled people for further spending cuts in the next Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review."

The Hardest Hit Week of Action (22-28 October 2012) will bring together disabled people, their carers, friends and family, from across the UK. Campaigners will join the TUC Future That Works march and rally on Saturday 20 October in London. Hardest Hit events will then take place throughout the week including a march and lobby in Newcastle, a light vigil in Sunderland, an MP Question Time event in Birmingham, a town hall meeting in Blackburn and stunts in London and the South East.

Research:

The survey of 4,500 disabled people was commissioned by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC). The survey asked disabled people about their experiences of the benefits system and concerns about future proposed changes to the welfare system. The survey of more than 350 independent welfare advisers was commissioned by the DBC. The survey asked advisers to consider any changes in the WCA they perceived over the last 18 months, covering the period since the first Independent Review's recommendations began to be implemented.

The anonymized in-depth interviews with more than 50 disabled people explored the ways in which people who receive DLA use it to support themselves in daily life.

Background:

The Hardest Hit campaign is organized jointly by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) and the UK Disabled People's Council (UKDPC).

Read the full report www.sense.org.uk/publications/hardest-hit-tipping-point

For more information and to join the campaign, visit www.hardesthit.org.uk where you can send an email to your MP.


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