Disability benefits have been high up the news agenda recently with the announcement that the Government plans to restrict access to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), affecting 160,000 disabled people.
The Budget provides an opportunity for Philip Hammond to look again at these changes to disability benefits as well as set out long-term reforms to employment support for disabled people and provide social care with the extra funding it so urgently needs. At Scope, we believe these changes would help enable disabled people to live financially secure and independent lives, just as the Prime Minister envisioned in her ‘country that works for everyone.’
Disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on costs related to their disability. In addition to needing expensive specialised equipment, disabled people often face higher bills for energy or insurance. More than half a million disabled households spend over £3,000 a year on energy, over twice the UK average. PIP helps disabled people cover some of these extra costs which is why it is such a vital benefit.
The Government are introducing regulations to reverse a recent court judgement which widened access to PIP. We are really concerned about the tightening up of access to PIP which could lead to disabled claimants missing out on the financial support they rely on to live independently.
Currently, 65 per cent of PIP decisions which go to appeal are overturned. We think instead of reducing access to PIP the Government should use the Budget as a moment to pause the regulations and focus on reviewing on the assessment process to ensure it accurately captures the extra costs disabled people actually face.
Government has made a welcome commitment to halve the disability employment gap and the Green Paper consultation into work, health and disability has recently closed. In order to make halving the gap a reality, the Government should follow up on this consultation with the swift publication of a White Paper.
Alongside the Government publishing a White Paper setting out real reforms to in and out of work support later this year, the Chancellor should use the Budget to halt the financial reduction for those in the Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG).
From next month new claimants will receive £30 a week less in financial support. We don’t think that this will help disabled people find work but it will make life harder. Disabled people are already less financially resilient than non-disabled people, with an average of £108,000 fewer savings and assets. A reduction in financial support could end up creating an additional barrier to work undermining the Government’s ambition. With under a month until the reduction kicks in, this is the Chancellor’s last chance to protect ESA payments.
There have been rumours this weekend that the Government will provide the social care system with £1.3 billion emergency funding. With the social care system crumbling, this injection of cash would be welcome. Over 400,000 working age disabled people rely on social care for everyday tasks such as getting up, getting washed and getting dressed. Yet over half of disabled care users say their care never supports their independence.
£4.6 billion has been removed from the adult social care budget since 2010 and this has resulted in fewer disabled people getting social care and fewer disabled people receiving adequate care. We’ve been calling for urgent funding for social care so that disabled people can get the support they need to prevent them slipping into crisis.
£1.3 billion could stabilise the system for the next twelve months and prevent a system already on its knees falling over. The Government has committed to a review of social care through the Cabinet Office and it is vital this review sets out a long-term solution for the funding of social care. We are urging the Cabinet Office to consult with and listen to disabled people as part of the review. The social care system must be properly and sustainably funded so that disabled adults are able to access social care which supports them live independently and achieve their ambitions. A cash injection in the Budget is desperately needed but only the start of a solution.
We hope the Chancellor will consider the needs of the UK’s 12.9 million disabled people and ensure this is a Budget that includes them.
Anna Bird is executive director of policy and research at disability charity Scope