Families with at least one disabled adult and child are £6,500 worse off a year thanks to government cutsby Nathan Hudson-Sharp / March 14, 2018 / Leave a comment
Disquiet about the impacts of welfare reform on disabled people has been mounting for some time. Regularly we see reports that describe the “untenable human costs” of welfare reform, and the subsequent “grave and systematic” violations of the rights of disabled people. Despite these flurries of reporting and public outcry, however, it is perhaps easy to forget the cumulative impact welfare reform has had on Britain’s disabled.
Within this context, myself and colleagues at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research were commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to carry out a review of the impact of welfare reform, to examine the evidence on the ways in which “protected groups” have been affected. Published today, our report collates over 400 studies and shows that welfare reform has had a devastating impact on Britain’s most disadvantaged—and particularly on the disabled.
Through the culmination of multiple cuts and restrictions to entitlement, disabled people have been extensively and disproportionately affected by welfare reform.
Among the most shocking findings is the fact that, as a result of policy changes made between May 2010 and January 2018, families with at least one disabled adult and one disabled child are now £6,500 worse off a year than they otherwise would be; over 13 per cent of their annual income.
In further proof of the increasingly hostile climate for disabled people, we also found that there has been a seven-fold rise in the number of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants being sanctioned. ESA provides money to those who can’t work because of illness or disability.
There’s more. Survey research shows 30 per cent of Macmillan Cancer Support benefit advisers knowing of patients who have died while waiting for their benefits, 48 per cent knowing of patients not being able to afford to feed themselves, and 59 per cent who describe patients not being able to heat their homes.
The problem is further compounded by research that shows the government’s flagship Work Programme having virtually no impact on supporting some disabled people into work; with only 5 per cent of claimants with mental health or behavioural disorders finding a job in 2013.
And, if the statistics weren’t hard-hitting enough, the report is also littered with accounts of chronically ill and disabled people being driven toward debt, poverty, homelessness, hunger and even suicide.
From the roll-out of PIP, the introduction of ESA, the implementation of WCA, to allocation to the WRAG, one might be forgiven for assuming that this steady-stream of seemingly innocuous acronyms represents nothing more than the mundane bureaucracy of an evolving welfare state.
What our report shows, however, is that behind these reforms lies the active decision-making of consecutive governments who, in the face of overwhelming research of its negative effects, have deliberately targeted disabled people and their families; demonising and presenting them as burden on the taxpayer to justify unrelenting attacks on their incomes, their homes and their dignity.
It is only recently, after seven years of austerity, that the public’s attitude is finally starting to change; Britons are rejecting notions of skivers and scroungers and becoming more in favour of prioritising government spending on disabled people. For many, however, it is too little, too late—as the damage has already been done to hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable in our society.
The safety net of the welfare state has well and truly been dismantled for disabled people.