DWP stays silent on benefit cap impact on disabled people


theweeksubThe Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been criticised for failing to provide any figures showing how many disabled people have had their benefits “capped” under its sweeping new welfare regime.

DWP published research this week which showed how many people have been affected by the cap in the four trial areas of Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey, all London boroughs.

The new rules, introduced in the four boroughs in April and currently rolling out across the country, restrict the total amount of benefits that working-age households can receive to £500 per week.

Households are exempt from the cap if they include anyone claiming disability living allowance (DLA), attendance allowance, the new personal independence payment (PIP), or the support component of employment and support allowance (ESA).

But many disabled people with lower support needs are not exempt from the cap and are thought certain to have been affected.

Income received by those in the ESA work-related activity group is included in the cap, as is carer’s allowance, income support, child support and housing benefit.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “This is the latest in a long line of failures by the government to be transparent about the impact that the cuts are having.

“Our concern is that disabled people yet again are suffering the consequences of this away from the public eye.

“Yes, certain groups of disabled people are exempt from the cap, but many, many disabled people are not exempt.”

Marie Pye, former head of public sector delivery at the Disability Rights Commission and now a Labour councillor and lead on housing in the London borough of Waltham Forest, also said she was concerned at the failure to provide information about the impact of the cap on disabled people.

She said: “We need the evidence to assess it. It is no good having anecdotal evidence. We need DWP collecting hard information.”

Although she was not able to speak for other councils, she said, figures showing the impact of the cap on disabled people were collected by Waltham Forest council.

Pye, who also leads on equality for London Councils, which represents the capital’s local authorities, warned last year that government cuts and reforms to benefits were creating a “perfect storm” that could see many disabled people lose their homes.

Disability Rights UK also said it was “very concerned” at DWP’s failure to monitor the impact of the cap on those disabled people not covered by exemptions.

Across the four trial areas, by the end of June about 2,900 households had had their benefits capped, with three-quarters of them single-parent families, according to this week’s figures.

At the end of June, more than 1,000 households were having their benefits capped by up to £50 a week, nearly 800 by between £50 and £100, nearly 400 households by between £100 and £150, and 33 by between £350 and £400.

A DWP spokesman pointed to the exemptions which “ensures the most vulnerable people are protected”, but declined to say whether DWP possessed any figures on the number of disabled people who have had their benefits capped in the four boroughs.

8 August 2013