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Worst is yet to come?

"For disabled people, the worst is yet to come ... ”


That's the gloomy conclusion from a report commissioned by Scope from the think-tank Demos.

It's a study based on just six "typical" families that are affected by the changes in payments and policy relating to disability (so it's easy to dismiss it as not showing the full range of the impact of changes), but each of the "typical" families has shown a loss in benefits support over the eight months of changes and reform.

The selected families were:

  • young disabled child cared for by her mother and father: income reduced by £211
  • disabled man and his wife, who cares for him and has "moderate disabilities" herself: reduced by £1,285
  • single disabled man: reduced by £71
  • single disabled woman: reduced by £129
  • middle-aged, disabled man who is a social care service user: reduced by £664
  • disabled mother caring for her disabled child: reduced by £319

"Although nearly everyone faces tough times in this current economic climate, disabled people are hit particularly hard as a result of lower income, higher costs, fewer support services and unpredictable health conditions"

From looking at the policy changes (of which they provide a useful summary), and talking to the families they selected, Demos comes to some general conclusions

  • The prospect of many independent disabled people holding down jobs is in doubt if the media is continually encouraged to see all disabled people as welfare scroungers. As a matter of urgency the government "must adopt a more constructive media narrative".
  • At the best of times disabled people are often financially vulnerable - with sudden crises in conditions or in support from family members. They need time to cope with changes to vital benefits. Benefit changes "must be communicated and explained in a way that allows disabled people and their families time to prepare and adapt".
  • Its not just DWP cuts that affect disabled people - income reduction and services changesimpact on the way that UK citizens (who just happen to be disabled) are served by the NHS, by education, by the justice systems and elswhere. No-one seems responsible for looking at the overall picture.Traditional impact assessment only works when one reform is being implemented at a time. "It is vital that the Government takes a step back to ensure their drive to reduce welfare spending does not generate costs elsewhere (such as in the health or care system.)"

The combined effect of changes, they suggest, has effects that are unknown. For example:

  • 500,000 people will lose their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2013
  • 36 per cent of people will lose their Incapacity Benefit by 2014
  • 81% of councils now only provide care support for people with "substantial and critical" needs (compared to 78% in the previous year)
  • only three councils now ignore DLA when assessing the ability to pay for care that someone has

But no-one really knows how many people will suffer from all four of these hanges, and what this will do to their household income and quality of life.

Claudia Wood, Destination Unknown: Summer 2012, Demos, June 2012 (ISBN 978 1 909037 12 0)