Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Welfare cuts 'will hit disabled'

The Government's proposed benefit reforms will hit 3.5 million disabled people, a think tank has warned

Disabled people will be "pushed even further backwards" in society as they are hit with more than £9 billion in welfare cuts over the next five years, a leading think tank has warned.

The Government's proposed benefit reforms will see 3.5 million disabled people lose about £9.2 billion of critical support by 2015, according to a report from Demos.

Ministers' plans to move disabled people on to Job Seekers Allowance will account for half these losses, it said.

The report, titled Destination Unknown, argued that planned welfare reforms would result in more disabled people being trapped in long-term unemployment - ultimately costing the taxpayer far more than at present.

Demos warned that by 2015, families with disabled children would lose more than £3,000 each, and disabled adults whose partner is a full-time carer would also lose around £3,000.

Former Labour minister Kitty Ussher, director of Demos, said: "There are good ways to reform welfare, but this is not one of them. The emerging evidence from recent years is that the only way to get those furthest from the labour market back into work is through individual client-led support.

"Cutting the welfare bill is attractive to Government in the current climate, but without better support for individuals it threatens to just exclude people further, rather than transforming their lives for the better."

Demos said 170,830 families in which both parents cared for a disabled child would lose a total of £520 million by 2015. Some 516,450 disabled people whose partner is a full-time carer would lose £1.3 billion, and 98,170 single disabled people would lose £127 million.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: "We know that many of the people trapped on incapacity benefits could and do want to work, but the current system doesn't allow them to. That's why we'll be reassessing everyone claiming incapacity benefits, starting in Burnley and Aberdeen on Monday and the rest of the country from spring next year.

"The new Work Programme, which will come on stream next year, will ensure that everyone who can work will get the help and support they need. Those found too sick or disabled to work won't be expected to, and will continue to receive the help and support they need."