Welfare reform is an issue of huge importance to people with learning disabilities as many rely on benefits to make up a large portion of their income. 

The number of changes made to benefits over the last few years has hit disabled people hard and many groups - including United Response - have been campaigning for the Government to evaluate their collective impact on disabled people.

Thanks to the persistence of disabled people’s organisations and charities, tomorrow morning Parliament will be doing just that.  The campaign isn’t over yet, as we need your help to make sure that as many MPs as possible attend the debate.

The sheer scale and scope of reforms introduced over the last few years meant it was very difficult for disabled people to know how their benefits might change.  We felt strongly that something that would have such an enormous impact on the lives of many people with learning disabilities should be explained in a way which was accessible and informative.  This is why we produced an easy read guide to welfare changes which set out the main reforms and when they were likely to take place.

What was harder to anticipate was the impact of those reforms on the lives of disabled people.  Research from Demos estimated that disabled people were facing cuts of £28.3 billion over the course of this Parliament – a staggering sum.  We summarised some of the main benefit changes in our benefits infographic.  It reflected the confusing range of reforms people faced, including the abolition of the severe disability premium, the spare room subsidy or ‘bedroom tax’ and the move from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment.

Even this was only an estimate of how people could be affected.  At the time the infographic was published, we and other charities and disabled people’s organisations called on the Government to carry out a cumulative impact assessment of how all of the welfare reforms would affect disabled people.  One of the most vocal of these groups, the War on Welfare led by Francesca Martinez, launched a petition to ask the Government to carry out a cumulative impact assessment which reached over 100,000 signatures in a matter of months.  As a result of the petition, tomorrow morning MPs will finally hold a debate about the effects of welfare reform on sick and disabled people.

It’s really important that as many MPs as possible attend the debate and find out more about the impact of welfare reform on disabled people.  If you want to support the campaign, you can email your MP today and ask them to speak up for disabled people.  You can find out who your local MP is and send them an email to ask them to attend the debate.  We, for our part, will ensure that the issues raised in the debate are not simply brushed under the carpet. Welfare reform must remain at the top of the political agenda right through to the coming election.

Rachel Bowen, campaigns officer.