Up to 100,000 families with disabled children could see their benefits cut under government plans, charity Family Action has warned.
Family Action says that the government's new universal credit, which is currently being discussed at committee stage in Parliament, could halve support for disabled children, compared to what is currently available through the disability element of child tax credit. This could see disabled children and their families lose up to £1,366 per year compared to current levels of support. The disability element of child tax credit is available for each disabled child, so a family caring for more than one disabled child could be hit even harder by these changes. Whilst the most severely disabled children will receive a slight increase in the disability additions under universal credit, compared to the disability element of child tax credit, an estimated 100,000 families could see their support fall from a maximum of £52 per week to £25.95, Family Action says. The changes will not affect the amount of disability living allowance which families receive, since this will remain outside of the universal credit system.
Family Action chief executive Helen Dent said: "With this callous cut the government are making sure that some of the most vulnerable children will be poorer from the start. The government's slash and burn approach to support for disabled children will hit some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged families who rely on this extra support to help them cope with the added responsibility of caring for a disabled child. "We know that parents we work with are already struggling financially. This added pressure will make life even more difficult for those families caring for disabled children. It will mean many disabled children will lose out and will push families further into poverty as they struggle to make ends meet and to provide for their children. The government should reconsider this proposal."
However, speaking to the Daily Mirror, a spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the government had put aside enough money to maintain benefits at the same level during the switch to the universal benefit and that there would be "no cash losers" as a result.