For disabled people, the worst is yet to come
22 June 2012
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.
“In reality, disabled families rely on a range of benefits and services and so now are struggling with a toxic combination of lower income, higher living costs and fewer services to support them. The cumulative impact of this at household level has seen carers stretched to breaking point and people telling us they have gone from ‘getting on with living’ to ‘struggling to survive'.”
Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of Scope, continued:
“Times are tough for everyone at the moment but this report shows just how badly disabled people and their families have been affected by cuts to date.
"Disabled people are facing spiralling living costs at the same time as their financial support and local social services are falling away. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are further cuts looming.
“We recognise the need for deficit reduction but decisions are being made without any real understanding of the cumulative impact cuts to welfare support and local services are having on people’s lives.
“We urge the Government to take action now, before the majority of its reforms come into effect, and to ensure disabled people do not bear the brunt of its austerity measures.”
Notes to the Editor:
Our case studies report on:
- A young disabled child (Aisha) cared for by her mother and father
Families like Aisha’s (but with two children per family) are £123.18 worse off in the last eight months. They claim a combination of Carer’s Allowance, DLA and Child Benefit. This group of 123,490 families is £15.2m worse off in total, and £30.3m worse off since the 2010 Emergency Budget.
- A disabled man (Albert) and his wife, who cares for him and has moderate disabilities herself
Together, Albert and his wife lost £1,285.12. The 433,590 people like Albert who claim DLA, IB and Income Support (but not taking into account Lucy’s situation) are £201 worse off in the last eight months. They are £87 million worse off as a group and have lost £149.7 million since the 2010 Emergency Budget.
- A single disabled man (Philip)
In the last eight months, Philip lost £70.98. Like Philip, 44,787 people claim low mobility and middle care DLA . They are £3.1 million worse off as a group in the last eight months and £65.2 million worse off since the 2010 Emergency Budget.
- A single disabled woman (Carla)
Carla lost £129.35 in the last eight months. The 369,930 childless people who like Carla claim DLA, IB and Income Support have collectively lost £47 million in the last eight months and £99.6 million since the 2010 Emergency Budget.
- A middle-aged, disabled man (Steve) who is a social care service user
Steve lost £663.70. He claims higher rate mobility and care DLA, which in the new Support Group category receives higher support than previously. The 12,020 people in his situation are better off by £140 each in the last eight months and have gained £480,000 as a group. Despite this, between April and November 2011, Steve lost £117.97 before he was transferred from IB into the ESA Support Group. The 12,020 people who like Steve were moved in the Support group lost £1.4m, cancelling out their more recent gains. Steve also needs to use his DLA – meant to support the extra cost of disabled living – to pay for his essential care costs. The 19,000 care in Steve’s local area contribute £25 per week from their DLA each, making them worse off by £15.2m as group in the last eight months and £28.8 million worse off since the 2010 Emergency Budget.
- A disabled mother (Helen) caring for her disabled child
Helen and her son lost £319.41. Her experience is less common because both she and her son experience significant disabilities and between claim DLA (low mobility, middle care), DLA (high mobility and high care), IB, Child Benefit, Housing Benefit and Carer’s Premium. It is difficult to make judgements about how much people like Helen have lost as a whole as she is a fairly extreme case.
The Destination Unknown series has been running since October 2010, following the experiences of disabled people through the current austerity programme.
It is also available at www.demos.co.uk/publications/destinationunknownsummer2012
Destination Unknown: Autumn 2011 is available to download from www.demos.co.uk/publications/destinationunknownautumn2011
Destination Unknown: Spring 2011 is available to download from www.demos.co.uk/publications/destinationunknownspring2011
The original report Destination Unknown (October 2010) forecast £9 billion worth of cuts to disability welfare alone.
Find out more about the families and the tracker study: http://www.demos.co.uk/projects/disabilityausterity
Case studies are available.
Beatrice Karol Burks
020 7367 6325
079 2947 4938
Scope press office
020 7619 7200
07843 467 948