16 Oct 2012

Up to half a million(1) disabled people and their families - including children and disabled adults living on their own - will be worse off under Universal Credit if current plans go ahead, finds an inquiry led by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and supported by The Children’s Society, Citizens Advice and Disability Rights UK.

Disabled people and their families warned that cuts to the child disability additions and to the Severe Disability premium are likely to result in them struggling to pay for basic essentials such as food and heating.

Many disabled people who are already finding it difficult to make ends meet face further hardship under the new benefit system, leading to potentially disastrous consequences.

What the changes mean to disabled people and their families

This includes up to 230,000 severely disabled people who do not have another adult to assist them getting between £28 and £58 less in support every week. The inquiry report, Holes in the Safety Net: The impact of Universal Credit on disabled people and their families also reveals that:

  • 100,000 disabled children stand to lose up to £28 a week.
  • 116,000 disabled people who work will be at risk of losing up to £40 per week from help towards additional costs of being disabled.

One in ten families with disabled children affected by the changes feared losing their homes. 83% of disabled adults living alone or with a young carer said they would cut back on food and 80% said they would cut back on the amount they spend on heating. The findings also point to a greatly increased burden on young carers as a result of the changes to the Severe Disability Premium. 

Despite the intention of Universal Credit to make work pay, evidence in the inquiry shows that the changes could make it harder for disabled people to remain in work.

The report makes key recommendations, including protecting children on the middle-rate care component of Disability Living Allowance. It also recommends disability support in Universal Credit should be provided to disabled people who are found to be fully fit for work but are at significant disadvantage in the workplace. 

'The stark reality that many disabled people will face'

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said: 'The findings of this report do not make easy reading. The clear message is that many households with disabled people are already struggling to keep their heads above water.

'Reducing support for families with disabled children, disabled people who are living alone, families with young carers and disabled people in work risks driving many over the edge in future.'

The Children's Society's Chief Executive, Matthew Reed, said: 'This inquiry has lifted the lid on the stark reality that many disabled people will face when the new benefits system comes into force. While it is true that some people will be better off under Universal Credit, it is shocking that so many disabled people – including children – will have to cut back on food, specialist equipment and, in some cases, be forced to move out of their homes or consider moving their child into full time residential care.'

'The government needs to act on these recommendations'

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said: 'These findings show all too clearly the daily struggle many severely disabled people already face to make ends meet. Not only will these cuts plunge many of the least supported, most isolated and most severely disabled people deeper into poverty, debt and despair, they will not even help the government achieve its main aims of creating a simpler benefits system that makes work pay and supports those in greatest need. This report comes up with solutions that it’s not too late to put in place at no extra cost. The government needs to act on these without delay.'

Disability Rights UK Chief Executive, Liz Sayce, said: 'We are very grateful to Baroness Grey-Thompson for spearheading this inquiry. Whilst the Universal Credit may benefit some disabled people, the findings are stark for thousands more. We are fearful that the government aim of ensuring work always pays appears to be undermined by some aspects of Universal Credit proposals which could price some disabled people out of work and deeper into poverty.'

Recommendations and experiences

The new benefit is due to come into place in October 2013. In the report, Baroness Grey-Thompson and the three supporting organisations make recommendations to make sure that some of the most vulnerable people are protected.  The fear is that these changes will leave gaping holes in the safety net for many disabled people. 

One family who will be left struggling financially is Janet. She is a lone parent who lives with her ten-year-old son Jack, who has autism. She receives the low rate care component of Disability Living Allowance for him. 

Under the current system, the family income is £231 per week after housing costs. Under Universal Credit this will be reduced to £203. Janet is concerned that she will have to cut back on essential items for her son.

Janet is not alone in these concerns. As one disabled person said: 'I dread to think where these changes will leave us. It leaves me in a state of panic when I think about living on less money. There are so many hidden costs to disability and it seems the most vulnerable are being hit the hardest.'

Ends

Related content

In addition to the inquiry's report (Holes in the Safety Net) are three research reports:

Media enquiries

For more information, please call Lorna Harris, Media Officer in The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4424 or via email. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508. 

Notes to editors

  • The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life. 
  • This inquiry was led by Baroness Grey Thompson and supported by The Children’s Society, Citizens Advice Bureau and Disability Rights UK. 
  • Universal Credit is a new benefits system set to replace a number of key current benefits, including some Income Support; Income based Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit and Tax Credits. The intention of the Universal Credit is to simplify the benefits system and to improve work incentives. While these aims are commendable. A number of concerns remain with the new benefits system. These include proposals to cut support for disabled children and from families with young carers and those with severe disabilities or working with disabled adults. 

Footnote

1. 450,000. (Return to text.)