On September 13th the Welfare Reform bill passes to the House of Lords for debate and to be voted on. This bill is based upon the ‘Universal Credit: Welfare that Works’ white paper that puts forward the Condem’s proposals for reforming welfare to work incentives, to simplify the benefit system and to tackle administrative complexity.
In short it seeks to destroy the welfare state as we know it and in many cases slash benefit claims to the point where increased poverty and homelessness will result.
DPAC say that Disabled People and Disabled Children should not pay the price for welfare reform. Please email as many Lords as you can. This needs to be done now or very soon so please take a few moments to do this if at all possible.
We are writing to express our concern over numerous aspects of the current Welfare Reform proposals which you are now being asked to consider and vote on. Many of these measures will adversely affect the lives of disabled people and children and will in many cases remove disabled people’s rights supposedly guaranteed under the UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities. If passed as they are many of these changes will result in widespread increases in poverty and homelessness.
A number of our concerns include the introduction of Personal Independence Payments to replace Disability Living Allowance with a stated aim of reducing the number of claimants by 20% when the fraud rate for DLA is according to DWP figures only 0.5% and the social security advisory committee have said they can see no reason for the changes. Re-testing of claimants regularly although their conditions will never change will be a further waste of public money and will merely add another test for disabled people to fear.
The proposed removal of the Mobility component of Disability Living Allowance from all residents of care homes, resulting in a fall in their incomes of 66% and leaving them with only £22 a week for all extra expenses will cause genuine distress for many residents as well as in most cases removing from them a right to family life. Many disabled people living in residential homes use this component to pay for either a mobility aid such as a wheelchair or to pay travel costs to see family and friends. One care home resident tells us that he has to pay his home 65p per mile to travel anywhere although the home is paid over £1,000 per week for his care and the drivers are volunteers. This is typical and without mobility allowance many disabled people will effectively become prisoners.
The proposed abolition of the Independent Living Fund coupled with the reduction of local authority funding will result in massive numbers of disabled people losing their right to live independently in total contradiction to the UNCRPD which was ratified by the UK government. This fund should not be scrapped without an adequate and ring-fenced alternative being put in place. In other countries where similar moves have been made the costs to the state increased as large numbers of disabled people ended up being admitted to hospital for lengthy periods of time. This proposal in particular will be disastrous for disabled people’s rights.
Restricting the amount of Housing Benefit entitlement to social housing tenants whose homes are larger then they are deemed to need is ill thought out as many disabled people have had costly adaptations made to their homes which they would lose if forced to move. There is also a massive lack of accessible properties available anyhow thus making it almost impossible for disabled people to find alternative accommodation. Further for anyone with a visual impairment or a learning disability it is often vital for them to remain in surroundings that they are familiar with and to maintain contact with medical and other professionals who know them well.
Another potential problem with housing is that the bill will link Local Housing Allowance rates to CPI index, which excludes housing costs. Already with the changes to LHA made it is becoming increasingly difficult for disabled people who have additional housing needs eg. to use a wheelchair, or have non-resident carers to find accommodation they can afford in the private rented sector.
Limiting of Employment and Support payments to 12 months for those in the Work Related Activity Group seem particularly illogical as disabled people’s impairments are not likely to go away and may in fact deteriorate. It ignores the effects of chronic, fluctuating conditions such as MS, ME, inflammatory bowel diseases etc.
In addition, the universal credit and welfare reform will bring in ‘a commitment’ for those who fail to ‘apply themselves’ to proper work seeking activities to tougher sanctions. Once again this will not address the complexity of employment related barriers that disabled people face, even if they really are ‘fit for work’. Cuts to Access to Work funding will put in place additional barriers to disabled people in trying to secure employment.
Caps on the total amount of benefit any claimant can get, for both housing needs and living expenses. The suggested total amount is £500 per week regardless of family size, or costs of housing. Ian Duncan Smith says this is to ensure that work pays however it totally ignores the multiple barriers that disabled people face in entering and remaining in the job market, and the fact that many families with disabled children are forced to give up work to care for them due to the lack of adequate alternatives.
Many families with disabled children will face a cut to the financial support they receive. The new system will result in these children losing up to £1400 per year The Government estimates that 100,000 disabled children would lose out under this change.
The reforms suggest that all claims should be processed via the internet which is not accessible for many disabled people. What alternatives are being proposed for those who do not have or cannot access this method of claiming.
We hope that you will ensure these issues are fully addressed before you vote on this bill, the future of disabled people now lies in your hands.
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