Disability Rights UK Newsletter

How bare bones benefits don’t add up

The Spring Budget offered next to nothing in terms of real-world increases to benefits for Disabled people, or salves to ease the pain of cost of living increases. DR UK’s Media and Communications Manager Anna Morell does the sums on bare bones disability benefits, in case anyone is listening. You can read her blog at the DR UK blogspot.

Disabled claimants set to lose Warm Home Discounts
Over 200,000 Disabled households are set to lose out on the £150 Warm Home Discount scheme due to a change in who the Government deems entitled to claim.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Attendance Allowance (AA) will no longer be able to claim, despite the forthcoming 54% increase in energy bills.

The Government is set to announce an increase in the Warm Home Discount payment from £140 to £150, and will say that it is expanding the pool of people able to claim it by 780,000, according to the Daily Mirror.

But it will exclude around 210,000 people on disability benefits from applying for the vital payment.

New laws to do this are likely to be introduced under the plans at the end of this year.

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “This is appalling. The Government knows full well that Disabled people face increased energy bills as a matter of course. Disabled people often need more hot water, more heating, and more energy to run specialist equipment than non-Disabled households. Removing this vital benefit beggars belief, especially with the universal increase in energy bills from April.

“With the changes not proposed until the end of the year, the Government must make a u-turn on this punitive decision. Far too many people are already having to choose between heating and eating. Benefits are nowhere near in line with inflation as it is. This move may push people over the edge.”

When Barbara Met Alan

The BBC’s groundbreaking drama on the disability campaigning and love story between Barbara Lisicki and Alan Holdsworth received almost universal praise in media reviews this week. The TelegraphThe TimesThe Independent, and The Guardian (as well as Frances Ryan) all published glowing reviews. Watch the film on BBC iPlayer, you can also read our blog on the film.

Financial pressure on unpaid carers “unsustainable” – benefits must be increased by rate of inflation

Just under half (45%) of unpaid carers are currently unable to manage their monthly expenses, the latest research by Carers UK has revealed.

A UK-wide survey of 3,300 unpaid carers was carried out by the charity in February.

Just under half (46%) of the carers surveyed also feel the oncoming increases in energy bills will negatively affect their own physical and mental health or that of the person they care for.

The findings come as Carers UK launches its Under Pressure campaign.

It has also written an open letter to the Chancellor, that DR UK and 76 other organisations have co-signed, asking him to provide unpaid carers with increased and targeted financial support to help.

Chief Executive of Carers UK Helen Walker said: “Carers are propping up our health and care system at a huge cost to their own personal health, finances and ability to stay in work. Now the picture is even bleaker, with increasing costs forcing them to cut back on food, on heat, and more than ever are worried that they will be pushed into debt.

“There is an urgent need for targeted support for unpaid carers now. Thousands more are being pushed into poverty that will have a lasting impact on their finances and quality of life.”

To ensure carers are supported during this extremely difficult time, Carers UK is calling on the Government to:

Increase Carer’s Allowance and other benefits in line with current inflation predictions for April 2022. Carer’s Allowance is set to rise by only 3.1% in April 2022, while inflation (CPI) is expected to reach 7.25%.

Immediately extend the Warm Home Discount scheme to ensure that it include carers. This is in recognition of the additional energy costs often faced by unpaid carers.

Raise the earnings limit for those claiming Carer’s Allowance to rise, so that it is at least equal to 16 hours work at the National Living Wage (and pegged to it in future years).

Provide a Carer’s Allowance Supplement to all carers with an entitlement in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – as those in Scotland have received since 2018 – so all carers across the UK receive the same level of support.

Carers UK said: “Please complete our campaign action and write to your MP. We have provided a template letter. Please make any carers that you are in contact with aware of our campaign, and ask them to also write to their MP. You can also support our campaign on your social media channels. You can also find suggested content in our campaign toolkit.”

Read the full Carers UK research report Under Pressure: Caring and the cost of living crisis.

Two in five Universal Credit claimants forced into debt, finds the Trussell Trust

The Trussell Trust says new research has revealed the true and devastating consequences of the current cost of living crisis, with hundreds of thousands of families across the country struggling to get by.

A new online YouGov poll of people claiming Universal Credit shows two in five (40%) receiving Universal Credit have been forced into debt this winter just to eat and pay bills.

One in six people surveyed (17%) needed to visit a food bank at least once since the start of December.

One in three (33%) people receiving Universal Credit had more than one day in the last month where they didn’t eat at all or had only one meal, while one in three people (33%) surveyed have not been able to heat their home for more than four days across the last month because they couldn’t afford to.

This situation is only set to get worse, says the charity, with inflation set to hit at least 7% this April.

The UK government is due to increase benefit levels by just 3.1% – less than half what’s needed to even begin to make up the shortfall. This increase amounts to just a £2 a week rise, which the charity highlights as “dangerously insufficient” in light of the soaring living costs people are facing.

Worryingly, this comes on top of the £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit introduced in October 2021 and a five-year freeze on benefits rates which means these payments are worth 11% less than they were a decade ago.

The charity is calling on the UK government to increase benefits by at least 7% this April as a bare minimum, to bring them in line with the true rate of inflation and help prevent pushing more and more people into debt with no way out.

Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust Emma Revie said: “ … we are calling on the UK Government to bring benefits in line with the forecast rate of inflation as a bare minimum in the upcoming Spring Statement, to prevent thousands more people being forced into debt and through the doors of food banks.

Longer term, it is vital we strengthen our social security system so it protects us all from harm and invest in local crisis support so no one needs to use a food bank to get by.”

For more information see the report The True Cost of Living.

See also our related news story Pushed to the Edge: Poverty, food banks and mental health.

30-year research highlights how Disabled children disproportionately experience abuse

The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal has published research looking at the experiences of more than 16 million young people from 25 countries across 1990 to 2020. The research found that 31.7% of children with disabilities have experienced violence.

The Guardian reports that Disabled children and teenagers are twice as likely to face neglect and/or sexual, physical, or mental abuse than non-disabled children. They are also far more likely to be bullied by their peers. The full article can be found on The Guardian website.

Bethany Bale, DR UK Policy and Campaigns Officer, said: “These figures highlight a reoccurring and alarming issue across the globe, and it’s clear that we need to do more to protect Disabled young people from abuse. It’s unsurprising in a society that views Disabled people at any age as lacking agency, that Disabled children are disproportionately targeted by abusers. This is the impact of entrenched ableist attitudes, and it needs to be challenged.”

Follow-up UNCRPD report shows things have got worse

Every five years, the United Nations (UN) asks Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) to produce reports around how they perceive our national governments’ implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The UNCRPD is a set of standards designed to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all Disabled people, and to promote respect for our inherent dignity.

The most recent reports show that there has been a further deterioration of Disabled people’s rights since 2017. The UN condemned the UK Government’s human rights record when it published its last investigation in 2017, despite the government claiming to be a ‘world leader in disability issues’. Our previous coverage on this can be found on our website.

Some of the key areas that the draft report has highlighted include: social care charging, a failure to reverse austerity measures that disproportionately impact Disabled people, and an absence of fundamental reforms. The report also covers the breadth of discrimination faced by Disabled people during the pandemic.

Bethany Bale, DR UK Policy and Campaigns Officer said: “The 2017 UNCRPD report highlighted the dangerous reality that many Disabled people were facing in this country at the hand of austerity and discrimination. What was to follow in the coming years could not have been predicted by anyone – but the pandemic is no excuse for the level of human rights infringements highlighted in these reports. The previous UNCRPD investigation highlighted how Disabled people were being failed in 2017, and few people listened. It’s essential that this time we listen and act.”

Inclusion London has led the work on the England report, which can be found on their website, and is calling for people to sign it by midday on 27 March.

Disabled mothers three times more likely to have lost work during the pandemic

Six in ten disabled mothers are struggling to make ends meet according to new research published by leading gender equality organisations, the Fawcett Society, The UK Women’s Budget Group, Engender and Close the Gap (Scotland), Women Equality Network Wales, and Northern Ireland Women’s Budget Group (NIWBG), shows that the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to amplify disadvantages experienced by disabled parents and the Government must take decisive action to tackle this.

We already know that women have been hit hard by the pandemic and mothers have been hit harder, but this new data reveals the acute impact COVID-19 is having on Disabled mothers:

* Half (49%) of Disabled mothers have been furloughed compared to one third (34%) of non-disabled mothers.

* Three times as many Disabled mothers lost their main job than non-disabled mothers (20% of disabled mothers compared to 7% of non-disabled mothers).

* Six in 10 (58%) of Disabled mothers report struggling to make ends meet compared to 36% of non-disabled mothers.

* High levels of anxiety were reported by 62% of disabled compared to 38% of non-Disabled mothers.

Disabled parents already face financial, social and health barriers. This research shows that the pandemic has compounded these and is likely to have a lasting impact on work:

* One in five (20%) of Disabled parents believe they were unfairly chosen for furlough because of their race, sex, age, disability, or health condition compared to about one in ten (9%) of non-disabled parents.

* 54% of Disabled mothers reported that they are worried about their job prospects in the next 12 months compared to 50% of non-disabled mothers.

Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, Director of the UK Women’s Budget Group said: “It is not surprising that disabled mothers have been hit harder in the labour market. Although disabled women’s employment has increased by 11.6% in the past 7 years, they are more likely to be in low-paid jobs and 1 in 5 employers are still hesitant to employ a disabled person.

Ofcom: telecomms and broadband providers must do more to help vulnerable customers

Ofcom research shows that over a million UK households struggle to afford phone and broadband bills, rising to about one in 10 in the lowest-income homes.

Ofcom’s Network and Communications Group Director Lindsey Fussell said: “Phone and broadband are vital to our lives.”

While many broadband providers offer discounted “social tariffs” for people on benefits, Ofcom has previously said that it has seen “limited evidence” that they are actively promoted to eligible customers, reports the BBC.

Ofcom has announced it is consulting on proposals for better help for those struggling to pay that will be included in updated guidance for telecomms companies.

BSL gets Commons clearance

The British Sign Language Bill has passed its next step towards it being given legal recognition in the House of Commons.

The Bill was put forward by Labour MP Rosie Cooper, whose parents are deaf.

The British Sign Language Bill would give the language legal recognition in England, Wales and Scotland, as well as require the government to issue new guidance and publish reports on what each government department is doing to promote or ease the use of British Sign Language (BSL).

BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the government in 2003, but currently, it has no legal protection.

Ms Cooper signed “Thank you” to her fellow MPs and said that the day would be “one that I hope deaf people will celebrate for many years”.