Chancellor George Osborne’s cuts to disability benefits will cause 200,000 disabled people to lose almost £3,000 a year each, a Labour analysis has revealed.
The analysis, cited by the Guardian, finds the decision to cut Personal Independence Payments (PIP) made to over 640,000 people in a bid to save the Treasury £1.2 billion, will remove 200,000 disabled people from the system.
In addition, 400,000 more people will experience a reduction in their weekly payments from £82 – the “enhanced” Daily Living Component – to £55 – the “standard” rate, according to the analysis.
PIP payments help with some of the extra costs incurred by long-term ill-health or a disability for people aged 16 to 64.
The level of payment is worked out using a points system dependent on the different aid and appliances a person needs to perform basic tasks.
The cuts will be implemented by reducing the number of points given to people who need help with tasks such as washing themselves, clothing themselves and going to the toilet unaided, resulting in lower or no payments.
The changes have been described as “devastating” by disabled charities, with many arguing they will fail some of the most vulnerable in society.
7 ways the Tories have ‘helped’ disabled people
7 ways the Tories have ‘helped’ disabled people
1/7 Closing Remploy factories
The Work and Pensions Secretary called time on Britain’s system of Remploy factories, which provided subsidised and sheltered employment to disabled people. People employed at the factories protested against their closure and said they provided gainful work. “Is it a kindness to stick people in some factory where they are not doing any work at all? Just making cups of coffee?” Mr Duncan Smith said at the time, defending the decision. “I promise you this is better.” The Remploy organisation was privatised and sold to American workfare provider Maximus, with the majority of the organisation’s factories closed. The future of the remaining sites is unclear
2/7 Scrapping the Independent Living Fund
The £320m Independent Living Fund was established in 1988 to give financial support to people with disabilities. It was scrapped on July 1 2015, with 18,000 often severely disabled people losing out by an average of £300 a week. The money was generally used to help pay for carers so people could live in communities rather than institutions. Councils will get a boost in funding to compensate but it will not cover the whole cost of the fund. This new cash also doesn’t have to be spent on the disabled
3/7 Cut payments for the disabled Access To Work scheme
Iain Duncan Smith is bringing forward a policy that will reduce payments to some disabled people from a scheme designed to help them into work. The £108m scheme, which helps 35,540 people, will be capped on a per-used basis, potentially hitting those with the more serious disabilities who currently receive the most help. The single biggest users of the fund are people who have difficulty seeing and hearing. The cut will come in from October 2015. The charity Disability UK says the scheme actually makes the Government money because the people who gain access to work tend pay tax that more than covers its cost. The DWP does not describe the reduction as a “cut” and says it will be able to spread the money more thinly and cover more people
4/7 Cut Employment and Support Allowance
The latest Budget included a £30 a week cut in disability benefits for some new claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The Government says it is equalising the rate of disability benefits with Jobseekers Allowance because giving disabled people more help is a “perverse incentive”. The people affected by this cut are those assessed as having a limited capability for work but as being capable of some “work-related activity”. A group of prominent Catholics wrote to Mr Duncan Smith to say there was “no justification” for this cut. Mental health charity Mind, said the cut was “insulting and misguided”
5/7 Risk homelessness with a sharp increase disability benefit sanctions
Official figures in the first quarter of 2014 found a huge increase in sanctions against people reliant on ESA sickness benefit. The 15,955 sanctions were handed out in that period compared to 3,574 in the same period the year before, 2013 – a 4.5 times increase. The homelessness charity Crisis warned at the time that the sharp rise in temporary benefit cuts was “cruel and can leave people utterly destitute – without money even for food and at severe risk of homelessness”. “It is difficult to see how they are meant to help people prepare for work,” Matt Downie, director of policy at the charity added
6/7 Sending sick people to work because of broken fitness to work tests
In 2012 a government advisor appointed to review the Government’s Work Capability Assessment said the tests causing suffering by sending sick people back to work inappropriately. “There are certainly areas where it's still not working and I am sorry there are people going through a system which I think still needs improvement,” Professor Malcolm Harrington concluded. The tests are said to have improved since then, but as recently as this summer they are still coming in for criticism. In June the British Psychological Society said there was “now significant body of evidence that the WCA is failing to assess people’s fitness for work accurately and appropriately”. It called for a full overhaul of the way the tests are carried out. The WCA appeals system has also been fraught with controversy with a very high rate of overturns and delays lasting months and blamed for hardship
7/7 The bedroom tax
The Government’s benefit cut for people who it says are “under-occupying” their homes disproportionately affects disabled people. Statistics released last year show that around two-thirds of those affected by the under-occupancy penalty, widely known as the ‘bedroom tax’, are disabled. There have been a number of high profile cases of disabled people being moved out of specially adapted homes by the policy. In one case publicised by the Sunday People last week, a 48 year old man with cerebral palsy was forced to bathe in a paddling pool after the tax moved him out of his home with a walk-in shower. The Government says it has provided councils with a discretionary fund to help reduce the policy’s impact on disabled people, but cases continue to arise
Owen Smith, shadow work and pensions secretary, said the government’s latest cuts were insensitive and targeted "people who are not able to manage toilet needs or dress unaided.”
Labour MP Frank Field told the Guardian he had trepidations over the PIP system after constituents told him they were being awarded zero points, only to have the decision overturned on appeal.
He also raised concerns over the way people were treated during their points assessments.
Mr Field has reportedly written to the work and pensions secretary Ian Duncan Smith on the issue, and called for individuals to be allowed to record their assessments.
Mr Osborne has also faced severe criticism for implementing the disability cuts while seeking to raise the threshold at which people start paying 40p tax in the pound to £50,000, reducing the amount of tax paid by thousands of well-off families.
Writing over Twitter Mr Smith said: “Already wicked to take another £1.2 billion from disabled, but truly obscene if switched for tax cuts at the Budget.”
The Government has previously said the PIP changes will ensure the system is fairer as money goes to those who need it most.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said a review of cases revealed a "significant number" of people are likely to be receiving the benefit even though they have "minimal to no on-going daily living extra costs".
Disability campaigners are set to hit out at the Chancellor this week when he includes the PIP changes in his Budget.
Mark Atkinson, chief executive at disability charity Scope, said: "We are concerned that the changes announced will make it harder for some disabled people to qualify for PIP.
"The Government has also announced it's considering a longer-term review of disability benefits. With the Chancellor's Budget next week we will be looking closely for more detail on what this means for disabled people."
Additional reporting by Press Association