Disabled people in Scotland face the impact of several simultaneous cuts to their benefits, say disability campaigners at Inclusion Scotland. They describe the affect as being akin to a virtual Tsunami which will devastate disabled people’s living standards causing hardship and homelessness. They say that the Department for Work & Pensions has refused to carry out a cumulative impact assessment of the effect of welfare cuts on disabled people forcing Inclusion Scotland to do their job for them.
Labour MP Ian Mearns has called for a debate in Westminster Hall which will take place on the afternoon of Tuesday, 18th December, on the effects of welfare reform on disabled people, their carers and families. This debate follows over a year’s campaigning by disabled people and carers who have worked hard to promote blind activist and carer Pat Onions’ petition asking the government to stop and review the cuts to disabled people’s benefits & services. In spite of restricted media coverage, “Pat’s Petition” collected over 62,600 signatures.
IS have analysed the changes using the DWP’s statistics and have calculated that the combined effect of the cuts planned under the guise of welfare “reform” will have a devastating impact on disabled people (who are more likely to rely benefits for some or all of their income than non-disabled people).
For example: Peter is aged 48 and has a learning disability. He is a housing benefit claimant living on his own in a council house in Edinburgh. Peter has two bedrooms and thus faces losing an average of £12 per week due to the Bedroom Tax. He is also on contributory ESA (worth £94.25 per week), the work related activity part of which comes to an end after one year, and is also claiming the lower rate care part of Disability Living Allowance (worth £20.55) – which is not payable under the Personal Independence Payment. Peter stands to lose at least £126.80 a week after PIP and the bedroom tax are introduced. Other households with more than one spare bedroom, and a disabled working age adult claiming the middle rate of DLA care who loses that after being assessed for PIP, stand to lose even more under the changes.
People like Peter are at a high risk of homelessness. The Scottish Government has estimated that of the high numbers of people in Scotland that will be affected by the bedroom tax, 11,000 households are at risk of homelessness. The DWP has estimated that two thirds of households affected will contain a disabled person. From here it is easy to predict that at least 7,000 households where a disabled person lives are at risk of becoming homeless. But this is a conservative estimate because the Scottish Government analysis does not take account of the cumulative effect of losing other benefits at the same time.
Bill Scott, manager of IS, said:
“We have looked at the impact of a number of benefit cuts and have found that disabled people are facing deep and lasting poverty, whilst thousands are likely to become homeless. For example two thirds of the households that stand to lose money under the ‘bedroom tax’ contain a disabled person. The disabled people most likely to lose out are those between the ages of 45 and retirement who are facing cuts not just to one benefit but three – Employment & Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and Housing Benefit.”
He added: “If we can do that analysis using the DWP’s own statistics, there is no reason why the government can’t do it. These cuts are a direct attack on disabled people’s incomes at a time when unemployment is high, jobs are scarce and disabled people face huge barriers to work. Yet this government is removing the safety net and expecting people to survive. This is what they don’t want to admit.”
– Ends –
i) Inclusion Scotland is a network of disability led organisations, individual disabled people and other organisations that support the principles of the Social Model of Disability. Our main aim is to draw attention to the physical, social, economic, cultural and attitudinal barriers that affect disabled people’s everyday lives and exclude us from participating in the mainstream of society.
ii) Please see Appendix 1 below for our latest briefing on the Cumulative impact of welfare reform and risk of homelessness.
iii) If you would like further information, please contact Dr Pauline Nolan, on
0131 555 6887 or 0141 221 7589; or by mobile: 07906 479342.
Cumulative Impacts of Welfare Reform
& the Risk of Homelessness
Impact of Welfare Reform on Disabled People:-
- The welfare reforms announced in June 2010 will lead to 3.5 million disabled people losing over £9.2 billion in benefits.
- The 12 month cap on entitlement to contributory ESA will, on its own, push an estimated 1 million disabled people into poverty.
A disproportionate amount of the cuts are falling on benefits paid to disabled people e.g. Disability Living Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, the Independent Living Fund, etc.
Many other benefit cuts will also have a disproportionate impact because disabled people are less likely to be in employment and thus more likely to be reliant on benefits for all or part of their income. The Government has just proposed further cuts to essential benefits, by removing the link between uprating benefits and rates of inflation. This will mean further losses to benefits disabled people receive, such as ESA, housing benefit and income support. Scotland will suffer more than its fair share of these cuts because we have more people with impairments & long term health conditions than other areas of the UK.
Yet disabled people incur considerably higher living costs because of their impairments making the additional benefits they receive essential to preventing poverty. Previous research by Leonard Cheshire found that the cost of living for disabled people is on average 25% higher than that of their non-disabled peers.
As a result disabled adults are twice as likely to live in low income households as non-disabled adults with 30% already classed as living in relative poverty. The proposed cuts to benefits will both increase the proportion of disabled people living in poverty and the depth of the poverty they experience.
No cumulative impact assessment has been undertaken by the Department for Work and Pensions responsible for these cuts, in spite of consistent and numerous calls from disabled people and their organisations for this to be completed.
Scottish Government have carried out an assessment of the likely costs and risks associated with the introduction of the under-occupancy rule.1 Inclusion Scotland believe that their estimates of negative impacts may be on the low side because some very relevant factors have not been taken into consideration.
Over the next 3 years tens of thousands of Scots currently classed as “disabled” will lose that status as they lose entitlement to the main qualifying benefits that give access to disability premiums & passport benefits.
Yet the vast majority of these disabled people will still have the same impairments and long term health conditions as they had before and will still face the same physical, economic, attitudinal and communication barriers. However they will do so without the additional benefits support that might help them overcome some of these barriers.
Inclusion Scotland are extremely concerned that they might also lose entitlement to passport benefits such as the Blue Badge and Concessionary Travel which can be of major assistance in overcoming access barriers to employability.
According to Sheffield Hallam University2 over the next 3 years around 100,000 Scots disabled people will be moved off Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Either because they exhaust their entitlement to contributory ESA or because they are re-classified as fully fit for work after a Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
In addition 60,000 Scots disabled people currently in receipt of the Lower Rate Care element of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) are also likely to lose their entitlement when the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replaces DLA in 2013/14.
Due to the planned 20% reduction in the DLA budget which the DWP is seeking to achieve there will also be significant numbers of disabled people losing the Mobility Components and Middle or Higher Rate Care Components of DLA.
According to the DWP’s own projections, by 2015/16, 650,000 (280,000 on the Higher Rate and 370,000 on the Lower Rate3) disabled people will lose entitlement to the Mobility Components of DLA when it is replaced by PIP. Proportionately that would lead to nearly 74,000 (30,800 Higher Rate & 42,900 Lower Rate) Scottish disabled people losing their entitlement to the Mobility Components.
Unfortunately there is no assessment of the cumulative impact of cuts to several of the benefits paid to disabled people. Thus far, the DWP has not conducted such an assessment due to what it argues are the difficulties in modelling ‘behaviour effects’.
However, using the DWP’s own figures in relation to the benefits disabled people receive, Inclusion Scotland have been able to calculate that working age disabled people who are aged 45+ will potentially be very negatively impacted by the cumulative impact of benefit cuts.
- The Introduction of PIP. According to DWP figures4 66% of those disabled people currently entitled to the soon to be abolished Lower Rate Care element of DLA are aged over 45;
- The replacement of Incapacity Benefit with ESA and time-limiting contributory ESA to 12 months.
According to Sheffield Hallam5 those most likely to lose entitlement to means-tested ESA will be those aged 50+, who are more likely to have savings and/or a partner in work); and,
- The under-occupancy rule or “Bedroom Tax”. According to the DWP’s own Equality Impact Assessment6 65% of the households likely to be affected by this change contain a disabled person (i.e. in Scotland (60,000+ households) and 55% are likely to be aged 45+.
Potential Impacts due to cumulative losses
It is very likely that there will be a significant overlap between some groups of claimants likely to lose benefit entitlement (e.g. ESA and DLA Lower Rate Care recipients). For example 50% of Incapacity Benefit/ESA recipients are also DLA claimants.
Both groups also have large cohorts of people with learning difficulties and/or mental health issues or cognitive impairments. Thus some, perhaps thousands, will be losing both ESA and DLA within the next 12-36 months.
As we know that tens of thousands of disabled people aged between 45 and 65 will be losing ESA and/or DLA in the coming 1-3 years this must have an on-going impact on their ability to meet other household costs.
Therefore the concern must be that those who have already suffered substantial losses of benefits will be much less able to meet the extra rent costs associated with the under-occupancy rule.
Analytical Services assumed that half of all households affected by the under-occupancy rule would somehow continue to meet their rent costs. Inclusion Scotland are concerned that this modelling was over-optimistic because it failed to take into account the cumulative impact of other benefit cuts on the financial resilience of households.
Instead it seems likely that if a substantial proportion of disabled people in a particular age group have already lost entitlement to other disability benefits, then they will be less able to meet increased rent costs.
This in turn means that a higher proportion are more likely to fall into arrears and face the possibility of eviction (with all the subsequent loss of revenue for social landlords and additional costs for local authorities and the NHS that this incurs).
Inclusion Scotland also believe that it is less likely that households containing a disabled adult or child will be willing to move to smaller tenancies as this might mean moving away from informal support networks, carers, adapted properties, etc.
Thus disabled people and their families will be less able to avoid the penalties of under-occupation. We therefore believe that the estimates for those falling into arrears and eventually being evicted should be revised upward.
Any figures that we put forward are like the Analytical Services estimates “informed guesswork” rather than definite projections. However, taking into account the cumulative losses to older (45 – 65 year olds) disabled people’s benefits and the disproportionate impact of the under-occupancy rule on older disabled people, we believe that a substantially higher proportion of households containing disabled people will fall into serious rent arrears and thus will be eventually evicted. This will in turn lead to a general increase in the proportion of all social tenants falling into arrears and eventually being evicted.
This briefing looks at cuts to a number of specific benefits that are likely to cumulatively impact on large numbers of disabled people. However, additional losses are being felt through cuts to local services disabled people receive. These are sometimes direct cuts in care hours often due to Local Authority funding cuts, but are also felt in the tightening of eligibility criteria for care, and in increases in care charges. So at the same time as disabled people are losing benefits, they face additional costs of care.
Further work also needs to be done on the cumulative impacts on disabled people with children, disabled women, and families with disabled children, who also face significant losses with the introduction of Universal Credit.
1. For those on the work related activity group rate only. The support group rate will continue to rise with the consumer price index.
2. It was recently announced in the Autumn Statement that some benefits will now be uprated annually by only 1% rather than 2.7% [current CPI] or, as previously 3.2% [current RPI].
1. “A note on the “Distributional Effect” of the House of Lords amendment of the Welfare Reform Bill regarding under-occupancy of social sector stock”. Community Analytical Services, Jan 30 2012
2. Incapacity Benefit Reform: the local, regional and national impact, Beatty & Fothergill, Sheffield Hallam University, 2011
4. DWP Tabulation tool figures
5. Incapacity Benefit Reform, op cited p.21, Beatty & Fothergill, Sheffield Hallam University, 2011
6. Housing Benefit: size criteria for people renting in the social rented sector: Equality Impact Assessment, DWP, Oct.2011.
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Tags: benefits, carerwatch, disability living allowance, dla, elderly, employment support allowance, esa, Incapacity benefit, inclusion scotland, pats petition, personal independence payment, welfare reform