Nearly a third of disabled people reliant on a key sickness benefit say its current low level has left them unable to eat, a survey has found.
The research, which relates to the so-called “Work Related Activity Group” on Employment and Support Allowance, comes ahead of a £30 a week cut to the £102.15 payment which will shrink the incomes of sick people even further.
Researchers at the Disability Benefits Consortium surveyed 500 people in the WRAG found that 28 per cent of people had been unable to afford to eat while in receipt of the the benefit.
38 per cent of respondents said they had been unable to heat their homes and 52 per cent struggled to stay healthy.
People in the benefit group facing the cut are new claimants who the Department for Work and Pensions has deemed to have a limited capacity to work at some point in the future.
The cut will be phased in from April 2017 and will reduce the payment to £73, in line with the current rate of Jobseekers Allowance for non-disabled people.
Some people in receipt of ESA also get Personal Independence Payment or anther benefit but around half do not.
The Government says cutting the disability benefits payments by nearly a third will help incentivise sick and disabled people to find jobs.
However, a new report for disabilities charities by Lord Low of Dalston CBE, Baroness Meacher and Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE found that there was evidence the cut could have the opposite effect.
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
1/8 Welfare payments will be slashed
One of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto was to cut benefits for the working age poor by £12 bn over the next three years. But during the campaign they only said where £2 bn of these savings would come from. That leaves £10 bn still to find. Some experts think the only way they can close that gap is by means testing child benefit – with millions of families losing out
2/8 There will be tax cuts for those in work and those who die
The Tories will increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable to £50,000 by 2020. They haven’t said so but it is also likely that at some point in the next five years they will abolish that 45p rate of tax altogether for the highest earners. They also want to increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
3/8 There will be an in/out EU referendum in 2017
The next two years are going to be dominated by the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. First off David Cameron has the daunting task of negotiating a deal with other EU leaders an acceptable deal that he can sell to his party so he can go into the referendum campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. This may be unachievable and it is possible that the Tories may end up arguing to leave. Opinion polls show Britain is divided on EU membership, one poll this year showed 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in
4/8 There will be more privatisation of the NHS
Having won the election the Tories now have a mandate to go further and faster reforming the NHS. In order to make cost savings there is likely to be greater private involvement in running services, while some smaller hospitals may lose services they currently provide like A&E and maternity units
5/8 There will be many more free schools – and traditional state schools will become a thing of the past
The Tories plans to create 500 new free schools and make 3,000 state schools become academies. They will also carry on reforming the Department of Education and remove more powers from local authorities over how schools are run
6/8 On shore wind farms will be a thing of the past and fracking will be the future
Government spending on renewable energy is under real threat now the Lib Dems are no longer in power with the Tories. Subsidies are likely to be slashed for off-shore wind farm and other green energy supplies. Meanwhile there will be generous tax break for fracking as ministers try and incentivise the industry to drill for onshore oil and gas
7/8 There maybe more free childcare – but not necessarily
In the campaign the Tories pledged to double the amount of free early education for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30. The extra hours would only be offered to working families where parents are employed for at least eight hours a week. However they have not said where the money will come from to fund the pledge
8/8 Workers' rights could be reduced
The Tories want to slash business regulation, merge regulator and cut costs. The Lib Dems stopped them from reducing the employment rights of workers in power – but these are now under threat
The report, released on Tuesday, says this is because cuts to payments to people in the employment-seeking group would mean increased resistance to people moving into it in the first place.
Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, warned that the cut to ESA would not have the Government’s stated intended effect.
“This Parliamentary Review looks at the impact on disabled people of the £30 a week cut to ESA WRAG, something the Government has failed to carry out,” she said.
“This Review shows that the cut would directly hinder the Government’s desire to halve the disability employment gap, and instead push disabled people further away from employment, closer to poverty and actively harm people’s health.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said the assumption behind the cuts were “insulting”.
“Reducing the financial support available to people who cannot work because of illness or disability will make people’s lives even more difficult and will do nothing to help them return to work,” he argued.
“It is insulting and misguided to imply that ill and disabled people on ESA will be more likely to move into work if their benefits are cut. The vast majority of people with mental health problems want to work but face significant barriers as a result of the impact of their condition and the stigma they often face from employers.”
The study was supported by a secretariat of seven charities: Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mind, MS Society, National Autistic Society, RNIB, Royal Mencap Society and Scope.
The Independent contacted the Department for Work and Pensions for comment on this story.
The Department for Work and Pensions claims that the charities' survey is not representative because of the methodology in which the data was collected.
“We value the contributions made by the report’s authors, but do not agree with its conclusions. The fact is that currently someone placed in the Work-Related Activity Group would receive more money every week than a person on Jobseekers Allowance, but get nothing like the help to find suitable employment," a spokesperson said.
“Our reforms will provide up to £100m per year to give people in this group the practical support they need to move closer to the labour market and when they are ready, back into work."