Tag Archives: welfare

Welfare debate… what next for disability?

As Labour and Conservative welfare leads spell out a vision for the benefits system, Richard Hawkes asks, what’s happened to the debate on disability?

It’s a big week for welfare.

Labour and Conservative leads are spelling out their visions for the welfare state, vying to be seen as ‘tough but fair’.

On Monday Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves told the Institute for Public Policy Research they would force jobseeker’s allowance claimants with inadequate maths or English to go on basic skills courses as a condition of receiving their benefit. Labour estimates this will affect about 300,000 people.

Iain Duncan Smith is making a key-note speech on Thursday. We don’t know the detail yet. But on Monday he and Theresa May placed a joint article in the Mail promising a “Housing benefit ban on jobless migrants”.

But as the Telegraph’s Benedict Brogan says, “The changes each side is proposing amount to fiddling at the margins.”

Meanwhile there is a big, unavoidable question about disabled people’s living standards that politicians have to answer over the next 18 months.

How do we make sure that as the economy picks up we don’t leave disabled people behind?

With disabled people struggling to make ends meet and getting in debt, struggling to live independently and struggling to find and keep work it’s an urgent issue.

We know politicians are working behind the scenes on this.

Unfortunately the current political debate makes it almost impossible to focus on the real issues.

The disability debate is stuck in stereotypes: ‘hopeless disabled person in need of hand-outs’ or ‘skiving scrounger fiddling the system’.

So here are three ways we can re-start the disability welfare debate:

  1. Let’s start by seeing disabled people as individuals – not a big group of people all with identical barriers and in need of the same support. Then let’s get over the fact that some disabled people need benefits, and instead take a look at why disabled people need support. Most disabled people are facing a living standards crisis – but sitting behind this are a range of concerns – from public attitudes, to local support to live independently and simply making ends meet.
  2. How we can drive down the costs of living with a disability? The issue of extra costs has been totally ignored so far. Disabled people aspire to live an ordinary life – no more, no less. Being disabled brings with it huge extra costs, research shows it can average between £800 – £1,550 per month. This includes things like specialist food, specialist equipment, specialist clothing, accessible travel costs.   While these costs exist Disability Living Allowance – introduced by the Conservatives in 1992 –  is vital and must be protected. It creates a level playing field and enables people to live and work. Before we get stuck in discussions about eligibility and assessments, let’s remember why this support exists in the first place.
  3. How can we change employers’ attitudes? There is rightly a lot of discussion about Employment Support Allowance and the Work Capability Assessment. But the focus should be on getting people back to work. Disabled people are pushing hard to get jobs and get on in the workplace. Nine in ten disabled people work or have worked. Yet only about 50% of disabled people have a job right now. A million more disabled people could be in work. How can we make sure disabled people get the tailored, specialist support they need and how improve the work place to so that disabled people thrive?

We know all parties want to engage positively with the 10 million disabled people in the UK. We know there’s a lot of positive discussion going on. But, when it comes to welfare, now’s the time to start to address the big issues.

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.

Disabled people and their families debate the ‘Paralympics Effect’

What difference did the Paralympics make to the lives of disabled people? Did it change attitudes? Did it increase opportunities to play sport or volunteer?  Disabled people, their friends and family have their say on whether the Paralympics has made the country a better place for disabled people.

#ParalympicsEffect


Sophie Christiansen OBE
, London 2012 Paralympic Games triple gold medal-winning equestrian, said:
“During the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Great Britain saw what disabled people could do. It was a turning point in perception. However, it was just the start. Just like not every able bodied person is not going to run as fast as Usain Bolt, not every disabled person is going to be a Paralympian. The challenge is now bridging the gap between the disabled community and Paralympians. The government’s initiative for role models is key to this to show that you can achieve in anything, whether it be in business, the arts, sport, academia, media, even if you have a disability.”

Richard Whitehead MBE, London 2012 Paralympic Games gold medal winner, said:
 “The 2012 Paralympics sent a powerful message that a disability shouldn’t stop you from achieving your goals. We hopefully inspired disabled people. We hopefully made the public think differently about disability. For me it’s not about looking back. We need to look forward. You don’t have the Paralympics every day, so how else can we show the world what’s possible once you start living a life without limits?”

Martyn Sibley, co-founder of Disability Horizons, is travelling in his wheelchair from John o’Groats to Land’s End to celebrate the Paralympics effect. He said:
“I was spellbound by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it wasn’t just the sport… it was the electricity in the air, it was the collective community consciousness and for me it was about the big bright light put on disability never before witnessed in the four corners of the UK.”

Marie Andrews, 30, from Milton Keynes volunteers two days a week at a centre for integrated living where she gives advice to disabled people. She agrees that the Games changed the way people think:
“I’ve noticed a shift in attitudes since the Paralympics. People in the street are not staring as much, they’re not as judgmental. I think the Paralympics helped the public realise that just because someone is disabled, it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve. They are seeing disability in a new light. Don’t get me wrong, I still get looks but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be.

Alice Boardman from Lancashire is the mother of two boys with autism aged six and seven. She said:
“I feel frightened for the future with the budget pressure on all services.  It seems we are in a fast accelerating downward spiral with being able to care for disabled people. But the Paralympics has given me huge confidence that disability is slowly becoming more socially integrated and celebrated in a positive way.  It felt like the first event that truly combined the able and disabled worlds in joint appreciation of the talents of disabled sportsmen and women, and I hope this will continue to ripple in a positive way though other areas of society.”

‘Could do better’

Alison Walsh, Channel 4 disability executive, said in response to what more the media should do:
“My answer is just do it. Less talk more action. Be prepared to take some risks with new talent – find people who are right and work hard to develop programmes that are right for them. The Paralympics gave Channel 4 a vehicle for disabled sports presenters but they can’t just be dusted off every four years, and they shouldn’t be confined to presenting disability subjects; they must be developed on as presenters who can work across different sports and all sorts of genres.

“Cast disabled actors in roles not written as disabled characters. Don’t forget to cast disabled contributors wherever you are featuring general public in reality or factual entertainment shows. Stop airbrushing us out! Behind the screen the same – take risks, make an effort to attract the talent. And disabled people – bash down our doors…”

Speaking on the link between comedy and attitudes, comedian Francesca Martinez said:
“I bet Jack Carroll’s jokes helped a few people think differently about what it means to be disabled. Like me, Jack uses humour to challenge attitudes to disability, much in the way that Britain’s Paralympians did with their amazing achievements last summer. A year on from the games, it’s got me thinking: could comedy be 2013’s Paralympics?

“I think disability is normal – it has always existed. It’s not abnormal because it’s part of life. Of course it brings struggles, but many of those struggles come from society’s inability to deal with difference.

“Comedy lets us tackle ‘difficult’ subjects in a light-hearted way. It lets you by-pass the discomfort that bubbles up when people worry too much about what to say. I try to turn people’s fears into jokes, because I find that people are more receptive if you make them laugh. And, do you know what? Disability can be funny! Some people think I’m talking about an issue, but I just talk about my life, which is what every comic does.”

Jane Jones from Cornwall, is the mother of a Jacob who is disabled:
“I feel that while the Paralympics gave families of disabled people hope and inspiration, since then the steady decline of funding and respect for disabled people from many places has made it harder to cope.”

Mandy (via Facebook): “I feel it did make a difference at the time but the attitude is swiftly changing back due to poor reporting making people with disabilities look like ‘scroungers’, or worse. Is this what the government wants?”

Pauline (via Facebook): “The attitudes of many have changed I think on a practical level access, facilities etc there has not been a lot of change and there needs to be more done”

Lizzy (via Facebook): “The Paralympic Games really excited my son he wants to compete but in our area there are no sports for disabled people let alone disabled children. Our local swimming pool is not very accommodating either.”

#ParalympicsFail

Ian Macrae, editor of Disability Now:
“The thing about the Paralympics always was that they happened in this bubble of hyper reality. Real life for disabled people was never going to be like that again. So now here we are with people under threat of losing their social housing homes, others left stranded on a work programme which doesn’t work for them, people dreading the all-too-real eventuality of losing a disability benefit.”

Jenny (via Twitter): “Paralympics showed us great achievements but #ParalympicsFail as government and media give scrounger image”

Angela Murray is a disabled former volunteer of the year from Luton she said:
“There’s no middle ground in the way the media think about disabled people: we‘re either lazy benefit scroungers or people to be pitied. I don’t want the public thinking I’m sitting at home demanding benefits but neither do I want people to be sympathetic to the point of patronising.”

“I’ve had people look down on me and say stuff like ‘do you think you can’t work just because you use a wheelchair?’ But at the same time I’ve had people say ‘of course you can’t work, you’re in a wheelchair.’ Neither attitude is helpful.”

“I remember one interviewer being really impressed with me. He practically told me I’d got the job before the interview was over. But I saw his face change when I asked him to help me get out of the building because I couldn’t get through all the doors. That was it. I knew I had no chance.”

Pauline (via Facebook): “No decent member of society can possibly agree with what is happening. It is undoing all the good that the Paralympics did to change attitudes. Life is so difficult for everyone it should not be made even more so for some members of our society who need and have a right to financial help.”

Helen (via Facebook): “Any positive attitudes the games produced has disappeared because of how the Government and the media are portraying disabled people as benefit scroungers and workshy within their welfare reform hype.”

Rebecca (via Facebook): “Rubbish – and given the fact that many Paralympians will face losing their DLA over the coming years, their “opportunities” are likely to decrease, rather than increase. And as for public perceptions – seeing superhuman paralysed people or amputees running/swimming etc, just made many people say “well if HE can do that, why can’t you…?”

John (via Facebook): “My sons special needs school has lost its sports field don’t get me started in this subject, I only have to walk into Starbucks to find teenagers mocking my 13 year old son with regards to his disability.”

Paula (via Facebook): “No definitely no improvement. I was told by someone that being disabled I should look to the Paralympics to see what I could achieve if i tried. My husband can ride a bike but he’s no Chris Hoy…..”

Loretta (via Facebook): “No attitudes haven’t improved. Sport is still extremely exclusive. My son has no provision to play tennis competitively as he has cerebral palsy and autism. Advice from the LTA is to put him in a wheelchair so he can play wheelchair tennis as they don’t cater for other levels of physical impairment!”

Scope wants to know what you think. Leave a response below, let us know on Facebook or
tweet us @Scope using either #Paralympicseffect or #Paralympicsfail

In-depth research shows that disabled people are financially excluded

New research published today looks beyond the welfare debate, and at the untold story of disabled people’s financial exclusion.

Disabled people’s finances are being hit from all sides. Earlier this year, research found that 3.7 million disabled people will lose £28 billion worth of support through the welfare changes – some being hit by six reforms at once. And in the Spending Round earlier this month, the Chancellor announced that there will be an overall cap on social security spending– including the amount spent on disability benefits.

A quarter of disabled people live in poverty, even before the extra costs of being disabled are factored in. The coalition’s cuts and caps will have an acute impact on disabled people and risk pushing more disabled people below the poverty line.

But there is another, largely untold part to the story of disabled people’s finances. In-depth research conducted by Ipsos MORI (PDF 1.2MB) published today examines the financial inclusion of disabled people.

Being financially included means having access to appropriate, affordable financial products and services – and knowing how to use them effectively without incurring costs. It means being able to build a financial safety net through insurance and savings; smooth fluctuations in income perhaps by drawing on credit; manage money and plan ahead. Most of all it’s an essential part of people living independently and being able to partake in all that society has to offer.

The research (PDF 1.2MB) shows that the story of disabled people’s financial inclusion is a complex one. Some disabled people are in a very poor financial situation.  Half have relied on credit to pay for the everyday items needed in life, while a similar proportion are struggling to pay their bills. For these, being able to save even occasionally; pay insurance premiums; or make credit card repayments, is unrealistic.

But for disabled people, financial exclusion is about more than just lacking money:

  • One in eight (12%) disabled people cannot physically access their bank.
  • Some want to protect themselves against financial crises, but feel they are turned down for insurance (8%), or are forced to pay higher premiums, on the basis of being disabled (22%).
  • Most (84%) are confident in managing their own money, but do not have access to the right advice, and may be completely in the dark about the welfare changes that will affect them – in 2012 almost half (45%) had never even heard of Universal Credit.
  • Some could afford to save a bit each month (17% agreed strongly that they could), or make credit card repayments but without knowing all of the options available to them choose to borrow off family and friends (38%) or ‘do without’ instead (48%).

For these disabled people, it is the role of the government, industry and regulators to ensure equal access to the right financial products. In a series of pamphlets published today, Scope outlines ideas for ensuring financial inclusion for disabled people in three main areas: Credit and Debt, Savings and Insurance and Information and Advice.

The Government wants people to be financially independent – to manage their own money and live their lives with minimal state support. The delivery of these aims so far has involved hastily removing the social safety net from beneath disabled people, without putting in place structures to build up their own financial resilience. For those disabled people who will always need some state support, drastic changes in their benefits mean that poverty, and spiralling debt are a more pertinent risk than benefit traps. For others, becoming more financially resilient is a real possibility – one that could be achieved through access to the right products and advice, and through policies which promote financial independence – and one that the Government would be unwise not to recognise.

View the pamphlets here: Financial SituationCredit and Debt, Savings and InsuranceInformation and Advice.

View the research: Disabled People and Financial Wellbeing

View the data tables

Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits

Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford
“Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford want to discover how much benefit is enough to live on and if work is worth it.” (photo: BBC)

Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford, most famous for expressing their utter contempt for an Apprentice contestant’s business acumen with nothing more than a scratch of the chin or an arch of the eyebrow, are turning their attention to welfare.

If ever an issue warranted such uncompromising prime time scrutiny it’s welfare.

The programme, which airs on Thursday at 9pm on BBC1, will see four claimants and four taxpayers come face-to-face to explore each other’s lives, examine their values and speak their minds.

I was lucky enough to be asked to help the programme make sense of what welfare means for disabled people.

This is easy. Life costs more if you’re disabled. At the same time you’re also more likely to earn less or be out of work.

So – especially now with incomes flat-lining, living costs spiralling and even fewer jobs out there – it’s tough for many disabled people to pay the bills.

We know many disabled people turn to loans to cover essentials.

Welfare – or more precisely financial support when you’re struggling to make ends meet – is the difference between disabled people paying the bills or not.

The programme is timely. Welfare is the subject of an £18bn squeeze by the Government. Last month the Government announced a cap on future welfare spending.  Parliament is for the first time having a debate about the combined impact of all the different changes on disabled people. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Work and Pensions Ministers is taking on the issue.

A lot is said about the need to make sure benefits go to people that really need it (and not hand-gliding benefits-fakers) and to make sure welfare helps people get work rather than put people off finding a job. 

But a couple of points tend to get lost. 

Firstly some people need benefits. It doesn’t make them a scrounger. It doesn’t make them a lay-about. It just means they need support to do things everyone else takes for granted. And it should not be conditional on finding work or the state of the economy . 

Secondly fraud on welfare, particularly disability benefits is tiny. 

The Government is planning to take disability living allowance away from 600,000 people. This financial support is a lifeline that helps disabled people cover the costs of doing things yourself at home and also getting out and about. The Minister argues that too many people claim it, the implication being that some must be fiddling the system. But fraud rates are actually less than 1%

I spent an afternoon with Nick and Margaret as they filmed in the main lobby of the London School of Economics at lunchtime. It wasn’t the best place in London to get people to be quiet while you film a documentary. 

But one thing came across clearly, they knew their stuff. 

They were interested in the issues and were asking the questions that the public would want to know. In fact they paid short shrift to the producer’s less well-informed suggestions and did things the way they wanted to.

The trick with any complex issue is attracting attention to it and explaining it in a simple way.  

People are more likely to watch a programme with Nick and Margaret in it than they would be to watch a documentary on welfare. The title might be provocative, but it gets people into the issue. Then it’s about seeking explain it in a simple way without dumbing down.

Nick and Margaret were great. I hope the programme gets the right messages across and more people get to understand what is really going on.

Watch Nick and Margaret: We All Pay Your Benefits tonight at 9pm on BBC1.

Ed Miliband’s welfare speech: three talking points

Ed Miliband has given a high-profile speech on welfare. The BBC’s headline is that Labour would cap social security spending. But underneath the soundbite the speech covered a lot of ground. The Scope policy team considers what it might mean for disabled people:

1. Investing in better employment support will bring down benefit expenditure

Successive Governments have recognised that supporting more disabled people into work can bring down social security spending. But too many programmes have had the wrong focus. Scope has long been clear that the Work Capability Assessment doesn’t work; our figures show that only 1,000 disabled people have got a job through the Work Programme. Ed Miliband is right to make this a big issue when it comes to welfare. But he needs to be clear that the reason unemployment is high for disabled people is because there are barriers to the labour market and a lack of appropriate jobs – not because disabled people don’t want to work.

We need to assess what the barriers disabled people face actually are rather than focusing on whether someone is medically able to stand up in the shower.

And we need to make sure those barriers are met through a programme of support that works for disabled people and finds jobs that they actually want, rather than pushing them into low-pay, low-skill jobs that only work in the short term.

Here’s Scope’s thinking on improving employment support for disabled people.

2. Spending money on social care can reduce broader public spending

Ed Miliband wants to cap something called Annually Managed Expenditure (AME), public spending that fluctuates with the economy. Welfare spending is the main chunk of this, and this is the basis for the ‘cap welfare’ headlines.

Social care doesn’t come from this budget. But there’s a crucial link here. If disabled people don’t have the right support to get up, dressed and out of the house in the morning, they won’t be able to play a part in their community and the wider economy.

With the right support, disabled people will be able to to contribute more to the economy, creating savings in social security expenditure and generating tax revenues.

Rather than capping Annually Managed Expenditure (AME), Labour should invest in areas like social care that could make real savings across the whole of public services – not just welfare.

Scope’s research shows that for every £1 spent on support, £1.30 comes back into society – and 28p of this saving is directly reduces AME.

3. Some disabled people will always need benefits.

Miliband said: “We should also support disabled people. Those who cannot work. And those who want to work and need help finding it.”

This is really important, because disabled people will be concerned about the impact on their support of combining a shift to a ‘contributory welfare’ system and a cap on AME. Hopefully this means that when it comes to disabled people, Labour’s starting point won’t be “How much money do we have?”, but rather “What kind of support we need to provide?”

And hopefully the result will be plans for making this a better place for disabled people.

The hardest hit of the hardest hit

Guest post from Claudia Wood, Deputy Director of Demos

It has become clear, since as early as 2010, that radical cuts to welfare spending would be the centre-piece of the Government’s deficit reduction plan. The aim of reducing the benefits bill by £18 billion per year by 2014-15, was supplemented in 2012 by the announcement that a further £10 billion would be shaved off with a new round of reforms from 2017.

The impact of the Government’s plan to cut several benefits in several ways will – inevitably – affect some households repeatedly. The Government’s Impact Assessments only consider each cut in isolation, and cannot quantify this cumulative effect. And so the Government has identified dozens of individual groups who will experience a reduction in income, but has no idea if they are actually identifying the same group over and over again.

We are witnessing the most ambitious reform of the Welfare State since it was created – shouldn’t the Government have a way of assessing its impact which is fit for purpose? This is particularly important for groups most likely to be on the sharp end of multiple cuts. Disabled people, for example, rely on a variety of different benefits and services, few of which have escaped reform in the last three years.

Cuts: calculating the cumulative effect

Supported by Scope, Demos attempted a series of cumulative impact assessments based on the combined effect of 15 disability-benefit related cuts.

We were able to work out how many disabled people would be affected by each, and how much they would lose in monetary terms. We found, overall, that 3.7 million disabled people would experience some reduction of income, and, over the period to 2017 – when the next set of reforms are likely to be announced – they would lose £28 billion in benefits as a group.

That’s a big number, adding together several individual cuts. But of course, they aren’t spread equally. What happens to the hundreds of thousands of disabled people who we found would be subject to up to six welfare cuts simultaneously?

Number of disabled people affected Loss per person by 2018 Total loss as a group
Double whammy  88,000  £15,506  £1.3 billion
Triple whammy  26,600  £17,097 to £23,461  £6.2 billion
Triple whammy  93,366  £6,309  £589 million
Triple whammy  29,484  £18,100  £533 million
Triple whammy 264,600 £6,280 £1.66 billion
Quadruple whammy  16,768  £5,428  £113 million
Quintuple whammy  12,500  £11,517  £481 million
Sextuple whammy  3,000  £23,300  £23-£116 million

At the ‘lucky’ end of the scale, 88,000 people currently claiming contributory ESA (WRAG) will see a double whammy of having their benefit capped by 1% through the Benefit Uprating Bill, and time limited to 12 months. At the other end of the scale – a group we might call ‘the hardest hit of the hardest hit’ – at least 1,000 disabled people (up to 5,000) will experience six separate cuts to their benefits income before the next election. By the time the next round of cuts are due, they will be £23,300 worse off per person – this represents the loss of all benefits recognising their disability (ESA and DLA), and a substantial reduction in housing benefit.

In between these two poles lies the 120,000 who will experience some form of triple cut, and 99,000 who will have a quadruple cut. At best, these represent a loss of £6,309 per person by 2017. But for those unfortunate enough to lose their Disability Living Allowance early on, and who also claim contributory ESA (WRAG), the combined impact of these and the CPI and 1% uprating cap will be a £23,461 loss by 2017.

Disabled people’s spiralling costs of living

For anyone, these are substantial sums of money. But for disabled people struggling with spiralling costs of living, such financial losses are life-changing.

Yet they are also an underestimate. We didn’t include in our cumulative assessments many of the reforms we modelled individually – such as the freezing of child benefit (affecting one million disabled parents), nor the closure of the Independent Living Fund (21,000 disabled people), discretionary payments to the Social Fund (945,000 disabled people), the 10% cut to Council Tax Credit (1.38 million disabled people), or cutting of Local Housing Allowances for private tenants (827,000 disabled people).

We didn’t include these as we felt we were unable to quantify the exact combination of cuts using publicly available data – this is perhaps the ‘too hard’ bit the Government referred to. But the fact we were able to construct seven distinct cumulative combinations covering the primary disability benefits (DLA and ESA) and Housing Benefit, factoring in uprating, time limitations and implementation periods, using public data, suggests that a more comprehensive and ambitious analysis would not be beyond the capacity of the statisticians at DWP.

And it is critical that it is attempted. Individual Impact Assessments are all well and good when making a single policy change here and there, but when dozens of changes are underway simultaneously – 18 Impact Assessments were issued for the Welfare Reform Bill alone – this piecemeal approach is both inadequate and misleading.

Each Impact Assessment identifies a relatively small amount of money shared across a large group. On reading them, one might conclude that the cuts are being widely and fairly spread. But if we were to pile three, four, or more losses onto a single person – would we say the same? And yet this is the case for hundreds of thousands of people across the country. How can we judge the fairness of such a comprehensive package of cuts if we have no real overview over who will be affected, and to what extent?

Table 1 – the headline figures from our analysis (PDF)
Table 2 – how the changes are combining to produce a cumulative impact (PDF)
Table 3 – for more detail on how we calculated the total figures (PDF)

Why changes to DLA should put disabled people first, not targets

Guest post from Eugene Grant – Scope’s Public Policy Advisor on poverty and welfare.

In 2013, with the economy in recession, unemployment levels still high and wages flat-lining, times are tough for everyone. But disabled people in particular are struggling to make ends meet and the way ahead is hazardous and foreboding. Already disproportionately likely to live in poverty, be out of work or paid less than non-disabled people, disabled people are about to be hit from all sides by a barrage of cuts to much-needed welfare benefits and changes to social care services.

Among these, one of the biggest concerns for disabled people is the future of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). DLA is a life-line for millions for the simple reason that it costs more to live in our society as a disabled person. The little things so many of us do without thinking – like getting out into our communities, running errands or travelling to work – can be much more expensive – often prohibitively so – if you’re disabled. DLA helps people meet these extra costs. In fact, such is the impact of these costs on disabled people’s living standards that academics estimate that taking these into account when measuring poverty could put almost half of all disabled people in the UK below the breadline.

With this in mind, disabled people are understandably frightened by the government’s plans to bring DLA to an end and introduce a new benefit called the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – the subject of tonight’s Dispatches on Channel 4. Come the new financial year and PIP is to be piloted in a select few areas; in June it will be rolled out for new claims only; in October those affected will include those whose current DLA award is due to expire around that time and thereafter. In 2015, everyone else receiving DLA will be told that their support is soon coming to an end and they will have to apply anew for PIP; they will not be moved across automatically. While the department for work and pensions (DWP) has launched an online toolkit showing people chronology of changes, lots of people are confused about how they will actually be affected when the reforms come into effect.

The government’s aim of creating a better targeted benefit through PIP is laudable, but what we and many disabled people are really worried about is that the assessment with which the government wants to re-test almost two million disabled people is not fit for purpose. As our past research shows and as we’ve said before, this is because it doesn’t take into account the range of practical and social barriers that disabled people face in daily life. We’re anxious because the government is set to get rid of the low rate of DLA care and that, under the new system, disabled people who might have less visible impairments but still face real barriers to living full and independent lives will lose out.

But most concerning is that the government is already predicting how many disabled people will receive support before PIP has even been rolled-out. As a result of introducing PIP, the department for work and pensions reckon more than half a million people who would’ve have received support now won’t get it. For us and disabled people across the country, this raises alarming questions as to whether the government is working to predetermined targets instead of what’s best for disabled people and their families. It looks set to repeat past mistakes it made with the much-derided Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

The government has to make some difficult decisions in terms of the country’s finances; but, at the same time, some people need benefits. They aren’t feckless, they aren’t scroungers; they just need a bit more support to live the full and independent lives that so many of us take for granted. If the government is really serious about leaving a lasting legacy after the Paralympics – one in which disabled people can fulfil their potential – then they urgently need to reconsider their approach to welfare.

Coping with the Cuts

Scope and leading independent think tank Demos have teamed up to produce their Coping with the Cuts report that looks at the impact local cuts are having on the lives of disabled people and their families living in England and Wales.

I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in what’s happening to their local services to have a look at our interactive map, and browse through the report to see how their council is coping http://disability-cuts-map.demos.co.uk/

We know that the cuts are likely to affect people in different ways, but if you are at all concerned, it’s really important that you get in touch with your local council to tell them.

Tell your local councillor to stand up for disabled people locally and protect the services in your community. Telling your story is a great way of making your council understand the true impact of funding decisions on the lives of people they represent.

Don’t miss your chance to have your say. Use our template email to share your views. It takes seconds to do but could make a big difference to disabled people living near you. Make sure the people you care about know what’s happening in their area too by sharing Demos’ report with friends and family or by joining the conversation live on Twitter (#localcuts).