The Hardest Hit coalition sent this letter to George Osborne in advance of the Autumn budget statement due on 5th December. It contains a simple message: don’t freeze benefit rates. Already around half of disabled people are living in poverty. Failing to uprate our benefits will just increase hardship.
Rt Hon George Osborne MP
1 Horse Guards Road
London, SW1A 2HQ
We are writing to you to express our concern that one of the options being looked at in preparation for next month’s Autumn Statement is a cash freeze for a range of benefits. We are writing on behalf of the Hardest Hit coalition of charities and user-led groups, which brings together over ninety organisations representing disabled people.
In our October 2012 report, ‘The Tipping Point: The human and economic costs of cutting disabled people’s support’, the Hardest Hit coalition revealed disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as other citizens. In fact, when the additional costs disabled people face as a result of their impairment are factored in, figures suggest that well over half of disabled people in the UK could be living in poverty.
Benefits like Disability Living Allowance (DLA) are there to meet the extra costs of being disabled. Considering disabled people’s additional costs amount, on average, to approximately an extra quarter above normal expenditure compared to non-disabled people we fear a freeze to disability benefits would intensify disability poverty but crucially, we believe the measure would prove economically counter-productive.
Our summer 2012 survey of over 4,500 disabled people revealed that nearly nine in ten (87 per cent) say their everyday living costs are significantly higher because of their condition. These extra costs typically range from higher utility bills to specialist aids and adaptations so disabled people can maintain a decent quality of life and remain independent.
Even a small loss of income can tip disabled people into greater dependence because their financial situation is highly precarious. The Government’s Life Opportunities study highlighted that 13 per cent of households with a disabled member experience “great difficulty” in “usually making ends meet”, nearly double the number compared with the general population.
Disabled people experience multiple forms of disadvantage. Whether it is fuel poverty or hourly wage rates, all the Life Opportunities statistics point towards the same verdict: disabled people are more likely to experience persistent poverty compared with non-disabled people. Three quarters of disabled people who responded to our survey said that losing some DLA income would mean they would need more social care support from their local council, which presents obvious challenges to local authorities’ budgets at a time when further savings are required.
Research carried out by the University of Essex suggests a reduction in disabled people’s cash incomes leads to an increase in deprivation. Therefore we urge you to consider the facts we have presented here, as part of the Treasury’s impact assessment for December 5th and in preparation for the Spending Review too. With only three weeks to go until your statement on the public finances we are convinced a freeze in disability benefits would be short-sighted and have instant and devastating effects.
We would be very grateful of your assurance that support to help disabled people fulfil their potential and play their full part in society will be maintained and disabled people will not be subject to a freeze in their benefits.
Steve Winyard and Jaspal Dhani,
Co-Chairs, Hardest Hit Campaigns Group