The Hardest Hit campaign, a coalition of over 90 organisations representing disabled people, has cautiously welcomed the government’s decision to raise disability benefits in line with inflation, but warned that cuts to other benefits will hit disabled people very hard.
The Government has announced that out of work benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseekers Allowance will only be up-rated by 1% over the next three years.
This has come at a time when the government’s Work Programme is failing to help disabled people back into work. Last week we learnt that only 1,000 disabled people out of the 79,000 referred to the flagship scheme have secured a job outcome that sees them employed for six months or longer.
The decision to only up-rate ESA for people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) by one per cent will represent a significant cash loss for thousands of disabled people who rely on this money to live their daily lives. Further below-inflation rises to a range of other benefits such as housing benefit and working tax credits were also announced and will have a significant impact on disabled people.
Steve Winyard, spokesperson for the Hardest Hit coalition, said:
”We welcome the decision to raise disability benefits in line with inflation, but this isn’t the be all and end all for disabled people. Thousands rely on benefits like ESA and Housing Benefit to live their daily lives. The decision to break the link with inflation for these benefits will result in a cash loss that is set to get worse over time.
“Disabled people are already twice as likely to be living in poverty and a cash loss of this kind will represent a serious threat to independence and a major compromise on quality of life. We estimate a typical disabled person in the ESA WRAG will be £180 worse off over the next three years than would have otherwise been the case had this benefit increased by 2.2 per cent.
“The 1.3 per cent portion of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants securing work through the Work Programme is a risible return and reflects, not a desire on the other 98.7 per cent of claimants’ to stay in bed, as the Chancellor appeared to suggest but huge inefficiency in Work Programme contracts and ongoing barriers to work for disabled people.”