The cuts 'tipping point' for disabled people

Richard Exell, the TUC’s Senior Policy Officer covering social security, tax credits and labour market issues, wrote a good summary piece for the organisation's group ToUChstone blog (http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/) on 3 December 2012, the 20th International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

He pointed out the huge gap between the government's rhetoric about "changing attitudes and lives" for disabled people, and the actual reality of what is happening.

"Disabled people lose out from the cuts that hit everyone – like the changes to benefit uprating, the cuts in Housing Benefit or the Child Benefit freeze. But the enormity of the benefit cuts that are specifically aimed at disabled people hasn’t yet been widely appreciated," writes Exell.

The best report on this subject, he suggests, is the Hardest Hit coalition’s document The Tipping Point.

The report brings together a survey of over 4,500 disabled people, a poll of more than 350 independent welfare advisors, and more than 50 in-depth interviews with disabled people with varying conditions and impairments.

Some of the key points in the report are that:

* Disability Living Allowance is being replaced by Personal Independence Payment, which will have a tougher eligibility test and will cut the total value of the benefit by £1 billion – half a million fewer people will qualify.
* For people in the Work Related Activity Group (the majority) contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be limited to one year (currently it is paid indefinitely).
* Universal Credit will pay families with disabled children substantially less than the current system: they will lose up to £24,000 by the time the child is 16.
* Universal Credit will pay much less to people with severe impairments – up to £3,000 a year less.
* Low-paid disabled workers will lose out, because the disability element of Working Tax Credit is not recreated in Universal Credit.
* The Work Capability Assessment test for Employment and Support Allowance, introduced by the last government, was extended by the current incumbents. There are problems with the way it operates and the test itself does not treat blind people, people with fluctuating conditions and people with mental health problems fairly.

"All this has been connected to an 'anti-scrounger' rhetoric that has led to a huge increase in hate crimes against disabled people," Richard Exell notes.

Also important is The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment, produced from the lived experience of the sick and disabled people going through it.

* The Hardest Hit: http://thehardesthit.wordpress.com/

* The Tipping Point report and executive summary: http://thehardesthit.wordpress.com/our-message/the-tipping-point/

* The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://wearespartacus.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/The-Peoples-Revi...

* One million disabled people left vulnerable by Autumn Statement: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17559

* ToUChstone blog: http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/

* WeAreSpartacus: http://wearespartacus.org.uk/

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Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia.

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