Liberal Democrat conference: Disabled woman tells party she lives on 50p a day


A disabled woman has told the Liberal Democrat conference how cuts to her benefits have reduced her to living on 50 pence a day and eating at soup kitchens.

Jemma Charlton was one of the disabled party members who spoke in favour of a motion calling for a “full and impartial” review of the impact of the government’s Welfare Reform Act on disabled people. The motion was passed almost unanimously, with just one member voting against.

She told party members that government plans to replace disability living allowance (DLA) with personal independence payment (PIP) would “not take into account people with mental health disabilities or people with hidden disabilities” and she urged MPs to “fight for those with hidden disabilities who will suffer as a result of these changes”.

Charlton told Disability News Service later that she was now living in a £20-a-night hostel, up three flights of stairs, and sleeping on the middle bunk, despite having a mobility impairment, following her discharge from a mental health centre.

She has lost £500 a month, after seeing her DLA reduced from the higher to the lower rate of the care component, and as a result has also lost her severe disability premium.

She survives on DLA and income support, but expects to be reassessed for the new employment and support allowance – the replacement for income support on the grounds of disability – at some stage. The one luxury she can afford is the 40p she spends on a daily newspaper.

She said: “Without the soup kitchens that the church do and the ‘community larder’, I wouldn’t have food.”

She said she hoped that the motion the conference had passed would have an impact on coalition policy, and said she had been “on the verge of tearing up my [Liberal Democrat] membership card” because she was “so angry” about the cuts to disability benefits.

24 September 2012