A new report is the first to demonstrate the likely devastating impact on disabled people’s lives of the government’s cuts to disability benefits, say campaigners.
The report, The Tipping Point, warns that the cuts could tip disabled people into “poverty, debt and isolation”.
A survey of more than 3,500 people for the report found that 85 per cent said losing their disability living allowance (DLA) would drive them into isolation, while 65 per cent of those in work said that without DLA they would not be able to stay in their jobs.
The government is to cut DLA spending by 20 per cent as part of reforms that will see it replaced by a new personal independence payment (PIP).
The report includes evidence and case studies from more than 50 in-depth interviews with disabled people.
Jaspal Dhani, chief executive of the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), said it was this evidence that gave the report its authority, particularly as the government has consistently refused to carry out an assessment of the full impact on disabled people of all of its cuts to benefits and services.
He said the case studies also showed how important DLA was to those with lower support needs, who are set to lose out as the government focuses funding on those with higher needs.
One of the disabled people interviewed for the report said: “All this stress and worry is just paralysing me. Sometimes I can’t sleep for nights on end. I get very depressed and don’t go out much at all. I just sit at home and fret. If I lost my DLA, I wouldn’t be able to live – it’s as simple as that.”
Another said: “All the cuts in the health service means that they can’t provide me with what I know I need, so I pay for it myself – and then they start cutting my money so I can’t afford it.
“It’s like they’re not actually interested in helping people at all. I know that if I didn’t keep myself as healthy as possible, I’d be in and out of hospital and that would cost a whole lot more.”
A third said: “It’s scary, actually. The things you see in the papers and on TV that paint us as scroungers and layabouts. And you know that the government are behind the scenes.”
Dhani said previous campaigning reports had failed to capture these individual accounts of the impact of the cuts and “how it will cascade through individuals’ lives”.
He added: “We have gone past the point of being shocked. Everyone in the disability world is aware of the impact, either individually or we know people who are close to us, service-users experiencing the reality.
“It is not just rhetoric anymore. We can say: here’s the real evidence.”
The report was released as part of a week of action by The Hardest Hit, a campaign organised by UKDPC and members of the Disability Benefits Consortium.
One estimate suggests that the 3.6 million people claiming disability benefits will be £9 billion worse off over the five years to 2015, an average of £2-3,000 per household, while the chancellor has announced there will be a further £10 billion cuts to welfare spending in 2015-16.
But three-quarters of those surveyed for the report said they would need more social care support from their council if they lost their DLA, while nearly nine-tenths of those questioned said everyday living costs were “significantly higher” because of their impairment.
Dhani said disabled people were “already at risk of hardship” and at a dangerous “tipping point”, with the possibility that the cuts already planned would push them into “poverty, debt and isolation”.
He said: “The government has some urgent choices to make, but must rule out targeting disabled people for further spending cuts in the next budget and comprehensive spending review.”
The report warns that removing DLA from 500,000 people could create an extra £742 million in need for social care, as well as £146million in lost income tax revenue from disabled people forced to give up their jobs.
It calls on the government to rule out targeting disabled people for any further spending cuts; to ensure the new assessment for PIP was “as fair and as clear as possible”; to do more to ensure disabled people do not lose out under the transition to the new “universal credit”, which will see key means-tested benefits and tax credits combined into a new, simpler system; and to provide a “lasting solution” to the social care funding crisis.
25 October 2012