Learning disability charities have given a mixed reception to Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement. Osborne’s statement confirmed that disability benefits will rise by the rate of the consumer prices index (CPI).
This means an increase of 5.2% – the value of the CPI in September 2011, when the rise is calculated – in April 2012. There had been speculation that the government was considering alternatives to using the CPI. In addition, there will be an inflation-linked rise in the disability element of tax credits. There will be a below-inflation increase rise for other forms of tax credits. But Osborne also announced that cuts to public spending, including social care, will be greater than previously thought.
Funding for councils from 2013-15 will be revised downwards beyond the cuts that have already been announced, although the Chancellor did not elaborate further on this. Meanwhile, in 2015-17 public spending cuts will be greater than previously thought.
Mark Goldring, Mencap’s chief executive, welcomed the news on disability benefits: “It is welcome that the Chancellor has pledged to uprate vital benefits for disabled people by consumer prices, so they keep pace with inflation and the rapidly increasing cost of essentials like heating and food. “However, we are deeply concerned about the urgent need to reform funding of the broken adult social care system in England, which now looks less and less likely to take place as the Chancellor allocates resources elsewhere. We call on the government not to kick this into the long grass, leaving many disabled people without the support they need.”
Sarah Lambert, head of policy at The National Autistic Society, also welcomed the assurances that disability benefits will rise in line with CPI inflation next year, but added the Chancellor needs to take into account the economic potential of adults with autism when formulating measures to bolster employment. “Only 15% of people with autism have a full-time job, but this proportion is at risk of shrinking further if more is not done to assist people with complex needs into the workplace,” she said.