23 March 2011
A report published today by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a coalition of 41 charities and organisations including Action for M.E. (1), shows how welfare reform changes may harm disabled people.
The report highlights concerns over the impact of reforms to vital benefits like Employment and Support Allowance (ESA; 2) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA; 3) on thousands of disabled people and their families.
The report, Benefiting disabled people?, presents the findings of recent surveys. The Disability Benefits Consortium surveyed 6,000 disabled people and found that:
- 43% of those who had been for a medical assessment for ESA said it made their condition worse because of the stress and anxiety caused;
- Nearly 7 out of 10 believed the assessment failed to take account of how their condition fluctuates; and
- Of those not in work, more than half have been unable to find work for over two years.
Sir Peter Spencer, CEO of Action for M.E. says “This piece of research is the culmination of a national survey in which over 200 people with M.E. took part. It shows that the benefits system is failing people with fluctuating conditions, such as M.E. and illustrates what work needs to be done to ensure that the benefits system is fair to all.”
Co-chair of the DBC policy group, Rebecca Rennison from Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “Our research shows the difficulties thousands of disabled people face when seeking support from the benefits system. Much more work is urgently needed to ensure that benefits like ESA help disabled people, in particular as the Government presses ahead with plans to reassess over one million people currently receiving Incapacity Benefit.”
Disability Alliance surveyed 1,700 people about their experience of Disability Living Allowance, a benefit designed to help meet the extra costs associated with disability. Among respondents:
- Fewer than 10% said DLA covered all their disability-related costs; and
- A quarter suggested their disability-related expenditure was over £100 per week (i.e. 40% higher than the average DLA weekly payment).
Neil Coyle, Disability Alliance Director of Policy said: “The Government plans to cut over £2 billion from DLA expenditure despite the evidence on disabled people’s rising costs of living. This is likely to increase disability poverty – and risks longer-term costs to the NHS, councils and Treasury from disabled people not able to manage conditions and avoid hospitalisation for example”.
Disabled people, their families and charities want the Government to listen to what they are saying about proposed changes to vital benefits. They are campaigning to ensure that as the Government seeks to cut public spending disabled people are not ‘the hardest hit’.
On 11 May thousands of disabled people and their families will protest outside Parliament and lobby their MPs to help them realise the impact of changes to vital benefits like ESA and DLA. Please visit: http://www.hardesthit.org.uk to find out how you can take action to support the campaign or to download a copy of the report, Benefiting disabled people?
Chair of the DBC campaigns group, Federico Moscogiuri, from Arthritis Care, said: “The shake up of the benefits system is set to hit disabled people particularly hard, with future spending on DLA expected to be cut by a huge 20%. “The Hardest Hit” campaign aims to fight damaging cuts to disability benefits. We’re urging our supporters, their families and friends, to join the march at Westminster, on 11 May, so that their voices can be heard.”