Nearly half a million people and their families could lose up to £58 pounds a week under the coalitions flagship welfare policy – cuts so deep that in 10 disabled households with children fear they might lose their home, a commision led by the Paralymic gold medlalist Lady Grey – Thompson as found.
Backed by three charities: Citizen Advice, The Children`s Society and Disability Rights UK – the commision examined the impact on disabled people.
The commission’s report, based on surveys of 3,500 disabled people and their families, says about 450,000 disabled people could stand to lose out under universal credit once it is fully implemented. Many are likely to struggle to pay for basic essentials such as food and heating, it says.
Three groups are particularly at risk, according to the report: 100,000 disabled children stand to lose up to £28 a week directly; 230,000 severely disabled people who do not have another adult to assist them are at risk of losing £28-£58 a week; and up to 116,000 disabled people who work could lose about £40 a week as the disability element of working tax credits is subsumed into the new scheme.
The charities and the commission are calling for more cash to be injected into universal benefits for disadvantaged families. “When families who may be affected were asked about losing £30 per week in support for disabled children, they expressed widespread concerns about having to cut back on food or heating, and getting into, or further into, debt,” the report says. “Around one in 10 families expressed fears that they could no longer be able to afford their home.”
The government claims universal credit will “make work pay”, but the commission says it found evidence that the changes could make it harder for disabled people to remain in work.
Labour has called on the government to postpone the introduction of universal credit by a year, arguing there are too many unresolved problems.
The government reacted sharply to the report, saying it was “highly selective and could result in irresponsible scaremongering”. A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “We inherited a system of disability support which is a tangled mess of elements, premiums and add-ons, which is highly prone to error and baffling for disabled people themselves.