Some disabled lone parents will eventually lose more than 30 per cent of their income – more than £11,000 a year – as a result of eight years of government social security cuts, according to new research for the equality watchdog.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report examines the “cumulative impact” of all the tax, national insurance, social security and minimum wage reforms made between May 2010 and January 2018.
It concludes that these reforms will have a “disproportionately negative impact” on several protected groups, including disabled people.
And it says these negative impacts will be “particularly large” for households with more disabled members, and even larger if any of them have higher support needs, while lone parents on low incomes will also be hit particularly hard.
The analysis is the final version of EHRC’s cumulative impact assessment (CIA), following an interim report published last November.
November’s report was seen as “a vindication” of years of campaigning by grassroots groups aimed at persuading the government to assess the overall impact of its cuts and reforms on disabled people.
The new EHRC report says that, on average, disabled lone parents with at least one disabled child will have lost almost 30 per cent of their net income, almost £10,000 per year, by the time the reforms and cuts are fully implemented in 2021-22.
And disabled lone parents with particularly high support needs will have lost over £11,000 on average, slightly more than 30 per cent of their net income.
Households with at least one disabled adult and a disabled child will have lost an average of just over £6,500 a year, more than 13 per cent of their net income.
EHRC said the reforms would “condemn future generations to poverty” and were driven largely by the freeze in working-age benefits, changes to disability benefits, and reductions in universal credit rates.
It called on the government “as a matter of urgency” to reconsider its policies, review levels of social security payments to ensure they provide an adequate standard of living, and carry out a CIA of its own on all future budgets and spending reviews.
Only last week, an EHRC report on Britain’s implementation of the UN’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights said the government had “failed to show why its tax, policy and legal reforms since 2010 were necessary and fair, and how they align with human rights standards”.
Among those who have previously called on the government to carry out a CIA are the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities and the government’s own benefits advice body, the social security advisory committee.
Yesterday (Wednesday), the Treasury again insisted that such assessments were misleading and refused to carry out future CIAs.
The EHRC report was carried out by Professor Jonathan Portes, of Aubergine Analysis and King’s College London, a former chief economist at the Department for Work and Pensions, and Howard Reed, of Landman Economics.
EHRC also published a separate review of research into the impact of tax, welfare, social security and public spending changes since 2010, carried out by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
The review concludes that disabled people have been the group most affected, with the impact “driven largely by reforms targeting disability benefits directly”, while families with disabled adults and disabled children “have faced the largest financial loss in cash terms compared to any other household type”.
It says that increased used of strict conditions imposed on benefit recipients, and of benefit sanctions, “has had many adverse impacts, including increased debt and borrowing, destitution, increased homelessness and the use of foodbanks, all of which have had implications for the physical and mental health of people”.
The report says the evidence also “demonstrates the negative and stressful experience of the [personal independence payment]application process”.
And it calls for further research into the negative impact of delays in benefit assessments and periods without benefits and support; the impact of sanctioning; and the longer-term impact on employment and support allowance applicants who are found “fit for work” and subsequently may be neither in a job or receiving benefits.
It concludes that the government needs to revise the theory behind the reforms – “that economic inactivity is a lifestyle choice and that cutting support will facilitate movement into work” – and acknowledge “that structural, not just individual, barriers to work need to be better understood and addressed”.
It adds: “More generally, there is a case for reframing welfare positively, as something needed by all sections of society at points in their lifetime.”
A Treasury spokesman said the government did not recognise EHRC’s figures or accept its overall analysis “because it presents only a partial picture”.
He said that the number of people in absolute poverty had reduced by half a million since 2014, while average household incomes were “at a record high”.
He said: “The Treasury, along with other relevant departments, carefully considers the impact of its decisions on those sharing protected characteristics – including at budgets and other fiscal events – in line with both its legal obligations and with its strong commitment to promoting fairness.
“While we already consider equalities impacts, we have substantial reservations about whether cumulative analysis can be produced in a way which doesn’t mislead.
“For example, this cumulative analysis would exclude the impacts of changes in public spending and key revenue raising measures, and thus present a partial and misleading picture of government policy.”
He added: “Our commitment to equality and fairness means we spend over £50 billion every year to support people with disabilities and health conditions. This is an increase of £10 billion compared to 2010.
“The number of disabled people in work has increased by around 600,000 in the last four years and lone parent employment has also risen.
“We will continue to prioritise support to those who most need it in society.”