Two key benefits for disabled people will be included in a new “welfare cap”, even though new government research has revealed only a tiny minority of people want to cut spending on disability benefits.
The chancellor, George Osborne, announced last week that he would introduce the cap from 2015, and that it would include spending on disability benefits.
The Treasury was unable to say last week exactly which benefits would be included in the cap.
But this week, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) confirmed that both disability living allowance and its working-age replacement, personal independence payment (PIP), would be included.
It also revealed that spending on employment and support allowance (ESA), the replacement for incapacity benefit, would be included in the cap, even though jobseeker’s allowance will be excluded.
It is still unclear exactly how the cap will work, but the Office for Budget Responsibility will be told to issue a “public warning” if social security spending approaches the limit set by the government.
If such a warning is issued, the government will “be forced to take action to cut welfare costs or publicly breach the cap”, which will be set for the first time at next year’s budget.
Labour has still not commented on the welfare cap, and its affect on disabled people, despite several requests from Disability News Service.
The confirmation of the benefits the government intends to include in its strict limit on social security spending came as a research report – published quietly this week by DWP – revealed new figures that will give a boost to disabled campaigners fighting spending cuts.
The survey found that nearly half (47 per cent) of more than 2,200 non-disabled people who were questioned thought the government should spend more on benefits for disabled people who cannot work, while only four per cent thought they should spend less.
The figures came from the latest Office for National Statistics Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, which measures changes in attitudes towards disabled people, and will feed into DWP’s disability strategy, Fulfilling Potential.
DWP also confirmed that new rules which will force anyone who loses their job to wait for a week – rather than the current three days – before claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), will apply to many people claiming out-of-work disability benefits.
The Treasury said last week that the new rules would not apply to those claiming the contributory form of JSA or ESA, but DWP has confirmed that it will apply to those on the means-tested, income-related version of ESA.
The measure is part of another £4 billion to be cut from spending on benefits in 2015-16, on top of previous cuts of £18 billion a year.
Meanwhile, the Treasury has again been unable to explain why it failed to take any account of the impact on disabled people of the “welfare cap”, the seven-day rule, and the cuts of 10 per cent to local government spending, in an equality impact analysis published alongside last week’s Spending Round 2013 report.
4 July 2013