A new report from the Hardest Hit Coalition of charities has revealed disabled people’s fears about the impact of welfare reforms on their lives. Released as part of a week of action to raise awareness of the possible effects of welfare changes, the report shows that 8 out of 10 people fear that losing their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) would leave them isolated and struggling to manage their condition. 9 out of 10 people said that losing their DLA would have a negative impact on their health.
Over the summer of 2012, more than 4,500 disabled people were surveyed to find out about their views and experiences of the welfare and social care systems. The responses detailed some of the extra barriers disabled people face in every day life and explained how overcoming these barriers is often expensive. Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty and this is where DLA plays a vital role in people’s lives, enabling them to meet some of the extra costs of being disabled and helping them to stay independent. People said that they used their DLA to help pay the costs of extra heating if their disability worsened in cold weather, or for taxis if their disability meant that taking public transport was impossible. Others described how being able to pay for a few hours of support per week made a huge difference to their lives:
“I get lower rate care (DLA) and it isn’t enough to pay for someone to come in, so I used it to pay for my sister’s petrol when she comes over. She goes through my cupboards and checks that food hasn’t gone out of date and that everything’s clean and tidy. I couldn’t pay without the DLA and she’s got her own family to look after.”
From April next year, DLA will start to be replaced by the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which the Government believes will save £2.2 billion. 78% of people surveyed said that they were worried that they would not qualify for PIP and three quarters of people said that if they lost their DLA/PIP, they would need more social care support. One person said that “I know the Government say they have to cut spending, but cutting DLA will simply mean they’ll have to spend more money on other things. It’s a false economy.”
The Hardest Hit is calling on the Government to make sure that future welfare reforms do not discriminate against disabled people. The Government must ensure that new assessment processes for PIP are fair and that it provides an income which prevents people from slipping further into poverty. The introduction of PIP and Universal Credit are an opportunity to improve and simplify the welfare system, but they must not be used a justification to cut support to disabled people.
Rachel Bowen, Campaigns Officer.