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Don't let disabled children pay the price of welfare reform: Sign petition
The widespread disturbances in London this weekend will undoubtedly raise questions about the violence's causes, particularly the impact of the recession and spending cuts on young people. Nobody doubts that the cuts have left everyone who works with children and young people having to be more far more careful with their budgets. Even the prime minister has acknowledged that in the age of austerity, things are going to be tough.
What is unknown, and proving to be highly contentious, is how the cuts will play out. Will they be fair and be borne by those with the broadest shoulders and not just the weakest, as the government claims? Or will they disproportionately fall upon children and families most in need, pushing more families into poverty?
'Dramatic long-lasting consequences' of budget cuts
Each week there is a drip feed of new information. The latest news comes from False Economy, which has found that reductions in council spending are hitting children and young people's charities the hardest. Almost 400 have experienced cuts of at least 5 percent and some have seen their funding completely withdrawn. Overall it is estimated that charities face funding reductions of more than £110m this year.
Council youth services seem to be particularly at risk. The Confederation of Heads of Young People's Services reports that £100m was cut from services in 2010/11. So far this financial year it says cuts are averaging 28% with some authorities cutting as much as 80% of youth services. A parliamentary inquiry into youth provision last month warned that budget reductions could have 'dramatic long-lasting consequences'.
Children with additional needs will be worse off, analysis shows
But for the families on lowest incomes it is changes to the benefit system which could have the greatest immediate impact. The government's new universal credit is intended to radically reform the welfare system to make it simpler and to ensure work pays for those on low incomes.
But our analysis has found that the reforms will leave many of those children with additional needs worse off. We are particularly concerned about the impact for disabled children who could face having their welfare support cut by up to £27 per week. By the time a child born with a disability reaches 16, this could cost the family around £22,000.
The money is paid per child so families with two disabled children could lose twice this much. And because the support is means tested, the poorest families are likely to suffer the most.
Sign our petition, 'Don't let disabled children pay the price of welfare reform'
In collaboration with 25 major national charities, we've launched a petition, 'Don't let disabled children pay the price of welfare reform', which argues that cutting benefits removes a vital lifeline for many disabled families who could be pushed below the poverty line as a result. For these families, financial support is crucial to help offset the additional costs of raising a disabled child and managing the extra caring responsibilities.
Sign our petition, 'Don't let disabled children pay the price of welfare reform'.
So for now it may not be clear exactly how cuts to council services will affect the lives of families and children. But we believe there is greater clarity about the likely impact of significant changes to the benefit system. And in our mind there is little doubt that many disabled children will be left worse off.
By Enver Solomon, Policy Director at The Children's Society
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Subjects: Children with disabilities