11 Jul 2012

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson launches inquiry

Tens of thousands of disabled adults and children will be much worse off as a result of welfare reform changes due to come into force next year, a new report from Citizens Advice, The Children’s Society and Disability Rights UK warns today.

The three charities voice their concern that the scale of cuts in support for some groups of disabled people – including children – has not been properly understood because the changes have been viewed in isolation.

The report looks at the impact on disabled people of the switch from the current complex array of means-tested benefits to a single Universal Credit payment, due to take place in October next year.  It shows that while some disabled people will gain from the changes, tens of thousands will get very much less help than they do now.

In her foreword to the report Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson says:  

'The government argues that the reforms they propose are designed to improve the system in a way which protects the most vulnerable and redirects support to those who need it most. But under the new system, financial support for some groups of disabled people will be much lower than current support available for people in the same circumstances. Cuts - such as those to support for most disabled children, and disabled adults living alone - are going to make the future considerably bleaker for many of the most disadvantaged households in Britain.'

Baroness Grey-Thompson is today launching an inquiry* into support available for disabled people under Universal Credit in order to find out more about how disabled people will be affected by the changes. She will be taking evidence in person from families who understand from their own personal experience of living with a disability the likely practical impact of the changes. She will also be taking evidence through a survey** of households with people affected by disabilities.

She is urging all disabled people, parents of disabled children, and carers to complete an online questionnaire at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/universalcredit

The inquiry findings and recommendations are expected to be published in October.

Today’s report, Disability and Universal Credit, looks at a number of different scenarios that illustrate the impact of the combined changes on disabled children, adults and their families.  

Some of the most startling findings include:

  • Halving support for disabled children will push many families below the poverty line, resulting in a loss of £1,400 per year for some families with disabled children.
  • Young carer families could lose up to £70 per week or £3,500 per year in support. Children of an estimated 25,000 disabled lone parents will be under greater pressure to care for them as a result of this cut in their financial support under the new system.
  • Couples where both partners are disabled – for example with cerebral palsy - will in many cases lose more than £100 a week under the new system – even if one of them is working.
  • There is a real risk that some single disabled people living alone and working could end up homeless due to the combined impact of cuts to in-work support and housing benefit.
  • A disabled person who uses a manual wheelchair and can self-propel this 50 metres will be treated as non-disabled and will no longer qualify for any extra support under Universal Credit.
  • Pensioners with a seriously ill working age partner – for example someone with Parkinsons who has had to give up work - could lose nearly £100 a week.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society said: 

'We welcome the principles behind the Universal Credit benefits system. But we have significant concerns over the negative impact it could have on thousands of disabled children and young carers. This joint report shows disturbing scenarios of how some families will be deprived of the vital support they need. 

'Our own research shows that four in 10 disabled children are already living in poverty because of the many hidden costs to disability. These new cuts may force some families to go without everyday essentials like food and clothing.'

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

'No group will be more affected by these changes than disabled people. The scenarios outlined in our report reveal the combined impact of the welfare changes to come on the incomes of disabled households. It makes disturbing reading. There will be some winners, but many others will find that they lose in several different ways, and it is these compound losses that will result in some enormous drops in already low incomes.'

Disability Rights UK Chief Executive, Liz Sayce said:

‘Universal Credit will remove some disincentives to work and will mean disabled people entering work are made better off – something we have long campaigned for. However, other disabled people will lose vital support. A third of disabled people already live in poverty in the UK. This report and Tanni Grey-Thompson’s Inquiry should provide the analysis needed to put the policy right, before regulations are finalised – so that disabled people are not driven further into poverty’.

 

Ends

For more information contact: 

For more information, please call Paul Martin on 020 7841 4422 or email paul.martin@childrenssociety.org.uk . For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to editors:

* Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson will launch her inquiry with an evidence session at the House of Lords at 3-5pm on Wednesday 11 July. Journalists are welcome.  If you would like to attend, please contact Neil Coyle on 07590 929 441 for more details. 

** The survey for disabled people, parents of disabled children, and carers is at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/univresalcredit

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more information in England and Wales see www.citizensadvice.org.uk
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality. For online advice and information see www.adviceguide.org.uk  
  3. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2 million clients on 6.9 million problems from April 2011 to March 2012. For full 2011/2012 service statistics see: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/aboutus/publications/advice_trends.htm
  4. Out of 22 national charities, the Citizens Advice service is ranked by the general public as being the most helpful, approachable, professional, informative, effective / cost effective, reputable and accountable. (nfpSynergy’s Brand Attributes survey, May 2010).
  5. Most Citizens Advice service staff are trained volunteers, working at around 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.

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.