The prime minister has claimed disability organisations support his government’s welfare reform agenda – and the DWP Minister for Disabled People has suggested disabled people are protected from cuts.
These two myths need debunking.
Firstly, many disability organisations do support welfare reform which delivers improvements in the way benefits are delivered or which cut the bureaucracy involved. Some aspects of current reforms deserve support – for example the taper in Universal Credit which allows people to keep more of their earned income when starting work.
But there is no disability organisation supporting the total package of government reform because the combined effect is catastrophic.
Just a quick recap on some headline figures:
• 100,000 disabled children to lose under Universal Credit;
• 600,000 disabled people 16-64 years of age to lose Disability Living Allowance (DLA); and
• 300,000 disabled people to be cut off from all out of work support after just 365 days despite 75% receiving regular NHS treatment.
So it’s no surprise the most representative group – the Disability Benefits Consortium (almost 60 national disability, advice and welfare-focused organisations) – doesn’t support the government agenda. Nor is it a surprise the prime minister can’t name any relevant, representative organisation which does. If there was such an organisation ministers would name it.
Secondly, DWP minister Esther McVey suggests disabled people are protected from the cuts. Saying this may make the minister feel better about making drastic reductions in support but it is somewhat undermined by the statistics above.
Usually, ministers suggest disabled people ‘with the highest needs’ are protected but here’s two points showing how even this is inaccurate:
• The government has confirmed that the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will close in 2015 – the ILF supports 19,000 disabled people with the highest care needs to live independently; and
• Under the abolition of DLA and introduction of the restrictive Personal Independence Payment, 430,000 disabled people with the highest mobility support needs lose out.
Ministers must come clean about the lack of support for the cuts it is imposing on disabled people. Sadly, we are about to witness a vast rise in poverty and social exclusion for disabled people, and, with an NHS and councils also facing a significant squeeze, the ability of the state to proffer alternative assistance is reduced. With charities also facing a tough financial climate and unable to fill the gap, the future is far from bright for disabled people in the UK.
But the government is refusing to assess the impact fully – as requested by Disability Rights UK, carers’ organisations, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Labour and an e-petition. The reason appears to be ministers are in denial.