Disabled families face a drop in income that will place many of them in a “struggle for survival”, according to a new report published by Demos.
Funded by Scope, Destination Unknown, a study tracking the lives of disabled people through the austerity measures and welfare reforms, reveals alarming truths about the deteriorating quality of life disabled people in Britain are experiencing. By tracking the lives of six typical disabled families through the programme of cuts, Demos and Scope have been able to monitor the negative impact on their financial circumstances and emotional well-being.
Since the Emergency Budget two years ago, disabled people and their carers have seen a drop in income of £500 million. But with the overall cuts to disability support predicted to come in at £9 billion by 2015, Demos and Scope warn that the struggle has only just begun.
By 2016, a further 500,000 disabled people are likely to have lost their Disability Living Allowance. By 2014, 36 per cent of existing Incapacity Benefit claimants will no longer be able to claim this support. The number of councils limiting funding support to only those with substantial or critical needs will have risen to 81 per cent.
The report criticises the Government for failing to look at the cumulative effect of cuts in impact assessments. Disabled people – as the report shows – rely on a package of support, and the study recommends that instead of looking at the aggregate impact of one cut, Government would do better to consider the impact of several cuts on a household.
Four major trends will dominate disabled families’ lives over the next two years:
- Struggle for survival: Both statutory services and third sector services are being cut, leaving disabled people with nowhere else to turn. The concept of the safety net no longer resonates with people experiencing serious crises before help is provided.
- Less civic and social engagement: Households in the study are becoming more socially isolated, and reducing the amount of activities they engage in – from essentials such as work and medical appointments to perceived ‘luxuries’ such as volunteering and training. This is at odds with the Government’s vision of stronger and active communities.
- Declining mental health: The study’s households are increasingly experiencing anxiety, depression and fear for the future, with some relying on increased medication. Even Philip, a stoic supporter of the Government’s deficit reduction plans, is now worried about his potential loss of benefits and work capability assessment.
- More informal care: Informal carers are taking the strain as the disabled people in the study are losing the financial support and services they once relied on. There is a clear physical and emotional toll on them.
Claudia Wood, Deputy Director of Demos and author of the report, said:
“The safety net has well and truly gone. Two decades of progress in disabled people’s living standards is being unravelled as disabled people’s quality of life is being narrowed.
“The human cost of the austerity measures is being overlooked because the Government only assesses the impact of one cut at a time, in isolation from the rest. But that’s not how people live their lives.