One of the new financial measures introduced by last week’s Budget was a cap on welfare costs.  On Wednesday afternoon, the welfare cap was voted for by an overwhelming majority of MPs – 520 to just 22 against

Regardless of whether you agree with the majority of MPs who think that the cap is a way to introduce accountability to welfare spending, or whether you agree with the minority who are worried about its effects on vulnerable people, it’s hard to disagree with the fact that the speed at which it went through Parliament meant that there was very little time to understand what the cap meant or its implications.

Although the cap excludes pensions and Jobseekers Allowance, it includes a wide range of benefits which many people with learning disabilities are likely to claim, such as Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Housing Benefit.  Unlike pensions and Jobseekers Allowance, these benefits are not dependent on the state of the economy – although Housing Benefit may be an exception – but they are subject to other pressures, such as changes in our population.  Over the next twenty years, the number of people aged over 85 is predicted to double and the number of people who live with long term health conditions is also set to rise.  There are almost 7 million carers in the UK, which is expected to increase as the population ages.  These changes alone are likely to mean that more people will be eligible to claim benefits like Carers Allowance and Attendance Allowance.

Inevitably, this leads to the question, what happens if the predictions for welfare spend are incorrect and the Government reaches the cap?  Under those circumstances, the Chancellor would be expected to return to Parliament and explain what had caused the spike in spending.  The Chancellor says that this will bring “responsibility, accountability and fairness”to welfare spending, but until the Government explains what it would do in the situation that the cap was breached, people who rely on benefits are bound to remain worried about what this would mean for them.

The measure has been introduced so quickly that it’s unlikely that many people with learning disabilities have had time to find out about it or understand what its implications are.  Earlier this week we published a special edition of Easy News to report about the Budget in an easy to understand format.  So far, hundreds of people have downloaded and shared the guide, proving that there is a huge appetite for accessible information about politics.

We strongly believe that the Government should be doing more to make politics easier to understand – not just for people with learning disabilities – but for everyone who struggles to follow the complicated language some politicians use.  This is why we have created an easy read letter for people to send to the Treasury asking for all future major announcements to be published in an accessible format.  The moment to influence the vote on the welfare cap has passed, but the next time a major new policy is announced, we want people with learning disabilities to have the information they need to be able to speak out and tell everyone what they think.

Rachel Bowen, Campaigns Officer