What the Autumn statement means for disabled people
29 November 2011
The Chancellor George Osborne announced a raft of measures aimed at "building the foundations for growth".
His Autumn statement also included important news on the way disabled people’s benefits will be calculated.
For the past 20 years, annual benefit increases in April have been based on the previous September’s inflation rate.
Last year the Chancellor changed the inflation measure used to calculate benefits from the retail prices index (RPI), which includes housing costs, to the lower consumer prices index (CPI), which does not. In some cases this move would’ve seen disabled people’s benefits cut significantly.
However, in September CPI inflation was surprisingly high at 5.2 per cent, raising the prospect of a short-term reprieve for disabled people – but fewer savings than expected for the Chancellor.
Then earlier this month the Times reported that Ministers were discussing a “compromise to use a lower inflation rate of 4.5 per cent, based on average inflation during the six months to September”.
In an interview with the newspaper, Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of the disability charity Scope said: “It seems like the government is shifting the goal posts because it didn’t get the result it had hoped for. But the starting point for welfare policy cannot be ‘how much can we save?’. It has to be balanced against what people need to simply live their lives.”
It looks like the Government has listened.
The announcement confirmed that most working age benefits will be uprated in line with the September Consumer Price Index rate of 5.2 per cent.
Scope has welcomed the move but urged the Government to do more to communicate with disabled people about changes to support.
Demos and Scope will be launching the next edition of a tracker study of the impact of cuts on disabled people. One of the emerging themes is the sheer uncertainty caused by the constant changes – and the very real impact this is having on disabled people’s lives.
Following the announcement Richard Hawkes said:
“Times are tough for everyone at the moment. Disabled people face a combination of spiralling living costs at the same time as their local services and financial support are falling away. The news that George Osborne is sticking with his decision to uprate benefits by September’s CPI inflation measure will come as a relief to disabled people. To have put the brakes on the uprating because he wasn’t getting the savings he was hoping for would have caused outrage.
“But the Government needs to be aware of the impact the bewildering barrage of benefits changes is having on disabled people.
“At a time when disabled people and their families desperately need stability and security, our research is showing that the uncertainty and confusion is needlessly edging people closer to poverty. How can they be expected to manage their finances when they face a host of reassessments and the ever-present possibility of losing further support?
“These are real people living real lives, not just figures on a page – and the Government needs to think carefully about the impact of yet another change that will seriously affect disabled people. One positive, practical step would be a commitment from the Government to properly and proactively communicate and support disabled people through the barrage of changes is it bringing in over the next couple of years.”