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Up to 3.7 million people with disabilities are set to be affected by changes in welfare benefits – costing them up to £28.3 billion in support by 2018, think-tank Demos has revealed.
Demos’ study shows that cuts to benefits including disability living allowance (DLA), employment and support allowance (ESA), housing benefit and the spare room subsidy – better known as the ‘bedroom tax’ – are hitting the same group of disabled people over and over again.
For example, 26,600 people face losing their: ESA through changes that time limit it; DLA through its upcoming reform, which will see it replaced by the personal independence payment (PIP); and having their ESA uprating capped at 1% (before they lose it). This loss is worth £17,000 to £23,000 over the five years depending whether they lose their DLA at the beginning or end of the transition to PIP.
At the same time an estimated 12,500 people who receive DLA, ESA (in the work-related activity group, where people receive support and training with the aim of getting them ready for work) and who live in social housing will be hit by five cuts, losing £11,517 each (£2,303-a-year), or £481 million as a group.
At the extreme, an estimated 3,000 people will be hit by six different cuts, each losing £23,000 as a household, or £4,600 a year.
Meanwhile, people with disabilities are also feeling the effects of local authority cuts. Councils – facing average budget cuts of more than 28% – have been forced to ration social care support leaving as many as 40% of disabled people without help to get up, get washed, get dressed and go out.
Scope and Demos argue that the Government has repeatedly failed to look at the bigger picture of what it’s like to be disabled in 2013, and how combinations of cuts impact on disabled people.
Demos has called on the Government to publish the cumulative impact of multiple cuts to benefits.
Claudia Wood, lead researcher on the project and Demos’ deputy director, said: “We at Demos have been investigating the impact of the cuts on disabled people since the 2010 spending review. The cuts and changes to benefits have kept coming since then, with the introduction of the overall benefits cap, the 1% cap on uprating and the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ being the latest example.
“Our research reveals that disabled people are bearing the brunt of the austerity measures, losing an estimated £28.3 billion by 2017/18. While striking, these calculations will invariably be an underestimate of the true impact of the cuts – as we opted for the most conservative estimates on the more unknown elements of reform.
“What’s shocking is that the Government doesn’t assess the likely combined impact of these changes – only the impact of each change individually. However, many disabled families are being affected by combinations of 4, 5 and even 6 changes, so we’re asking the Government to change tack, and start to publish cumulative impact assessments.”
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope, added: “At the moment there’s no place for disabled people in the Chancellor’s aspiration nation.
“In 2013 disabled people are already struggling to pay the bills. Living costs are spiralling. Income is flat-lining. We know many are getting in debt, just to pay for essentials.
“What’s the Government’s response? The same group of disabled people face not just one or two cuts to their support, but in some cases three, four, five or even six cuts.
“It paints a frightening picture of the financial struggles affecting disabled people in 2013. On top of this the Government is suggesting capping the welfare bill in the June spending review – having already slashed billions.
“At the same time, disabled people who want to live independently, are seeing the support they need to get up, get dressed and get out squeezed due to chronic under-funding of social care.
“There is an opportunity coming up in the spending review and draft care and support bill for the Government to show that it is committed to supporting disabled people by addressing the £1.2 billion funding black hole in social care for disabled people.
“We have to start looking the bigger picture. It’s more than cuts to both social care and welfare. This is about the kind of country we want to live in. In 2013, at the very least disabled people should be able to pay the bills and live independently.”