Tag Archives: JSA

What does the Autumn Financial Statement mean for disabled people?

Wednesday was International Day of People with Disabilities. By coincidence, it was also the day of the Autumn Financial Statement. Although the Chancellor’s speech and the accompanying documents only addressed disability explicitly a handful of times, nonetheless his policies will affect disabled people.

Prior to yesterday’s announcements Scope called on the Chancellor to:

  • Link and match investment in the NHS to investment in social care.
  • Invest in Access to Work and specialist employment support to enable more disabled people to enter and sustain employment.
  • Protect the value of extra cost payments.

So how did the statement match up to what we asked for?

1. Linking health and social care

The biggest announcement, trailed heavily before the speech, was a further £2bn investment in the NHS.

But it should be clear that without greater investment in this country’s social care this will remain a false economy. Social care, for both older and disabled people is in crisis. Unfortunately, as Scope’s Chief Executive and Chair of the Care and Support Alliance, Richard Hawkes, stated – ‘care was conspicuous by its absence in the Autumn Statement.’

A little less concrete than a budget promise, but still welcome, was the commitment to continue to integrate health and social care locally. Tucked away in the statement was the promise to give councils and CCGs more information about funding they will receive in future years so they can plan together. A slightly technical point yes, and not enough to counterbalance years of underfunding, but this has the potential to drive a stronger focus on supporting working-age disabled people to live as independently as possible.

Other good news was the announcements made concerning carers. These are:

  • The Carer’s Allowance earnings limit will increase in April 2015 from £102 to £110 per week
  • The Government will extend the £2,000 annual National Insurance contributions Employment Allowance to those households that employ care and support workers.
  • Care workers will be exempted from the impacts of removing the £8,500 threshold below which employees do not pay Income Tax on benefits in kind.

2. Employment support

Unfortunately no announcement regarding Access to Work was made yesterday, nor any significant changes to the way in which employment services for disabled people operate.

However, the decision that an additional £3m will be made available to expand existing mental health and employment pilots is a really positive step. It is now important that the learning from these pilots are effectively captured and applied to employment services as a whole.

3. Extra costs

Osborne announced that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independent Payments (PIP) would be protected in any future freeze of working age benefits. Whilst we recognise that the freeze will adversely affect many disabled people in the ESA WRAG group and on JSA, protecting DLA/PIP is an important part of ensuring disabled people can meet the extra costs they face.

Scope warmly welcomed this move at the time, and we were pleased when in this was confirmed in a separate announcement made by the Minister for Pensions Steve Web.

 

Autumn Statement – what’s in it for social care?

Guest post from Megan Cleaver, Parliamentary Officer at Scope.

Today’s Autumn Statement was the last big political announcement of 2013. But what was left out of the Chancellor’s speech this morning was just as revealing as what was included.

The A&E crisis has dominated the headlines over the past few months, with investment in social care seen as one way to ease the pressure on hospitals. But despite rumours overstretched social care budgets would be given a boost today, on this the Chancellor was silent.

Such a commitment to extra funding would have been especially welcome given the second reading of the Care Bill in the House of Commons was also announced today. The Care Bill contains the biggest ever reforms to the social care system, and its debate on 16 December will be the first opportunity for MPs to debate changes to social care which will affect over half a million disabled people.

And providing good quality social care can bring huge economic benefits. George Osborne spoke at length in the Autumn Statement about the need to get the benefits bill down and get people working. For disabled people, social care is the cornerstone of their independence- the support they need to both seek and stay in employment.

Indeed, recent research by Deloitte has shown that investing in social care for disabled people with ‘moderate’ care needs – who the Government have stated they intend to shut out of the social care system by tightening up eligibility for care – creates considerable savings for the public purse. Deloitte found that for every £1 that is spent on moderate social care needs, £1.30 is saved through increased tax revenue to the Treasury and a reduction in welfare spending as a result of disabled people and informal carers entering the workplace, not to mention the significant savings to local authorities and the NHS from ensuring disabled people’s needs do not escalate to crisis point and therefore require more expensive medical treatment at a later date.

And when George Osborne states that the job of getting rid of the deficit ‘is not yet done’, these are financial savings that cannot be ignored.

Cap on over £100 billion of welfare further threatens disabled people’s living standards

Today, The Chancellor announced details of the planned cap on Annually Managed Expenditure (AME). Currently, the social security budget has the flexibility to respond to the needs of the economy and the people within it. In the Autumn Statement today we learnt this may no longer be the case.

At the beginning of each Parliament the Chancellor- with support from the House of Commons – will place limits on social security spend. Set in 2014 for the four years following, the cap will cover more than £100 billion welfare spending.

The basic state pension, Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and JSA-pass ported benefits will be excluded from the cap. But all other benefits – including Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Tax Credits and the majority of Housing Benefit – will still be in the cap.

What does the cap mean?

Raising the stakes

A breach of the cap will trigger a debate and vote in the House of Commons. This will further raise the stakes for policy-makers who want to ensure they can provide the right support for disabled people.

Welfare trade-offs

Housing Benefit and tax credits are counter-cyclical –they may rise sharply if the economy falters. If the economy takes a downward turn, ministers bound by the cap will be forced to pitch them against disability benefits in their decisions to bring down social security spending.

Today Osborne argued that including state pensions within the cap would mean “cutting pensions for those who’ve worked hard all their lives because the costs on, say, housing benefit for young people had got out of control.” Meanwhile, disability benefits which help many disabled people work and live independently – appear to be fair game.

Short-termism

The cap installs yearly limits to social security spending. Instead of tackling the drivers of it, ministers will be compelled to make quick, top-down cuts wherever they can.

Scope have long-argued that continued investment in social care, better employment support and proper support to cover the extra costs of being disabled would all be more effective in meeting disabled people’s needs and driving down costs than any cap on AME.

This autumn, the Chancellor has celebrated growth and responsible recovery. But it is a recovery that will not benefit disabled people. Instead disabled people will face yet another squeeze on living standards, and further exclusion from local communities and the wider economy.

Behind the figures: what do today’s sanctions figures mean for disabled people?

New figures out today show the scale of the Government’s new sanctions regime. In total, over 90,000 disabled people have had their benefits suspended for anywhere between 3 weeks and 3 years. Here’s four things you need to know:

How many disabled people do sanctions affect?

Since November 2012, when sanctions were tightened, 90,004 disabled people have had their benefits suspended.

This breaks down as 82,860 disabled people on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) – the out-of-work benefit available to everyone – and 7,180 disabled people on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which is meant to be for those who face the biggest barriers to work.

This means that 1 in 7 of the total number of JSA claimants who’ve been sanctioned are disabled people, and 4 in 5 of the total number of ESA.

How does this compare to previous years?

It’s hard to say exactly, because DWP haven’t published figures specifically for disabled people before last year.

But looking at the figures for those on ESA – the majority of whom are disabled people – we can get a sense of how many more people are being sanctioned under the new regime. The increase is pretty shocking.

Since December 2012 the number of ESA sanctions was 11,400. For the same period in 2011/12, the number of people sanctioned was 5,750. This is an increase of 50%.

Compare this with an 11% increase for JSA sanctions year on year, and it’s clear that the regime change has had an even more dramatic effect for those who face the most barriers to work.

Why are people being sanctioned?

What the stats show is people being sanctioned for things like missing interviews with advisers, or not engaging with the Work Programme, or sending enough job applications.

What they don’t show is the reality for disabled people: interviews with advisers clashing with medical appointments; inaccessible transport; advisers without specialist understanding of conditions and impairments; a lack of jobs with the flexibility disabled people often need.

Do sanctions work?

No. Disabled people face a wide-range of barriers to work. Lack of available jobs, fewer qualifications and even negative attitudes from some employers can make the workplace daunting.

So simply taking away benefits from a disabled person really doesn’t help – as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have repeatedly pointed out. In fact, suspending benefits can make things worse: stats from the Trussell Trust show that increasing use of food banks is linked to the tightening of sanctions.

Instead of simply suspending benefits for no reason, we need a system that actually works for disabled people, that supports them to find a job they want, and that takes seriously the barriers they face.