Darren Hoult, who has Parkinson's, coming down a ramp in his wheelchair

Disabled people hardest hit as changes to the welfare system leave them in poverty

Date

Disabled people are 4 times worse off financially than non-disabled people, according to new research commissioned by the Disability Benefit Consortium.

 

Changes to the welfare system over the past 10 years have left disabled adults 4 times worse off financially than non-disabled adults, according to new research commissioned by the Disability Benefit Consortium, a coalition of over 80 UK disability organisations. 

While many people who receive welfare support have experienced cuts of an average of £300 as a result of changes to the welfare system, disabled people have typically lost around £1,200 per year. 

Research and findings

The research, funded by the Three Guineas Trust, is the first comprehensive study looking specifically at the cumulative impact of welfare changes on disabled people, and conducted by the University of East Anglia, the University of Glasgow and Landman Economics.

The research also found: 

  • The more disabilities you have the more you lose out. For example someone who has 6 or more disabilities loses over £2,100 each year on average, whereas someone with 1 disability loses around £700 each year.
  • Households with 1 disabled adult and 1 disabled child lose out the most, with average losses of over £4,300 per year.

Methodology

Today’s report by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), Has welfare become unfair? The impact of welfare changes on disabled people, which is based on this research, looks at the financial impact and lived experiences of welfare reform on disabled people over the past ten years.

As part of the research, 50 people living with a variety of conditions and disabilities were interviewed about their experiences. People said that they found the application and assessment processes highly stressful, and that they did not feel trusted, and constantly challenged.

Impact

The DBC also states that the current system has become so complex and dysfunctional that many disabled people have found it has had a devastating impact on their wider health and wellbeing.

Pam McGee, 48, from Kent, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1994, which severely impacts her mobility. After a PIP assessment in 2017 she lost the higher rates for both the mobility and daily living components, which means her support was cut by £290 a month and she no longer qualifies for a Motability car. She’s now appealing the decision and says the stress caused by this process has impacted her health. She said:  

“If I lost my car, I don’t know how I’d carry on. I’m terrified I’ll be out of a job because without the car I won’t be able to get anywhere. If I can’t work at the age of 48, I would lose all of my pride. People always ask: ‘What’s your name and what do you do?’ My job is what defines me.

“In the last 10 weeks I’ve had a massive relapse. I went dizzy and lost all feeling in my left leg. When I spoke to my neurologist he said the relapse was probably caused by stress. I’ve also been depressed and eating less. 

“PIP has caused me and my family a lot of anxiety and stress. It’s caused my MS symptoms to worsen, which has reduced my mobility, confidence, and ability to take care of myself physically as well as mentally.”

Call for urgent improvements

The DBC says that the failure to include disability premiums as part of Universal Credit and poorly designed assessment criteria are just two examples of the problems leaving disabled people worse off. It is calling on the government to make urgent improvements to the welfare system to ensure it works for everyone. 

Michael Griffin, Research Lead for the DBC and Senior Policy Adviser at Parkinson’s UK, said:

“For the first time, our research has shown just how much disabled people are bearing the brunt of the disastrous changes to welfare. 

“Many disabled people have not yet even experienced the full extent of the cuts because they are still waiting to be moved over to Universal Credit. However, when this happens there will be a surge in poverty among those who are already at a crisis point. 

“This is simply disgraceful and cannot be allowed to continue. The government must make urgent improvements to the application processes and assessment criteria, and resolve the flaws in Universal Credit before more people are denied the support they desperately need to live independently.”