Martin Whitfield MP has lent his support to an umbrella group of 80 disability charities calling for better support for disabled people.
The county’s MP attended the launch event in Parliament for a new report, ‘Has welfare become unfair?- the impact of changes on disabled people”.
Funded by the Three Guinea’s Trust and commissioned by the Disability Benefit Consortium (DBC), which represent 80 national disability organisations, the research found that changes to the welfare system over the past ten years have left disabled people financially four times worse off than non-disabled people.
They heard that while many people have experienced cuts to their benefits, disabled people have lost on average payments of around £1,200 each year because of changes to the system, compared to an average of £300 for people without a disability.
The research also found that:
- The more disabilities you have the more you lose out, for example someone who has six or more disabilities loses over £2,100 each year on average, whereas someone with one disability loses around £700 each year.
- Households with one disabled adult and one disabled child lose out the most, with average losses of over £4,300 per year.
For disabled people, these benefits provide vital financial support to help them with the extra costs they face and so when it is taken away they do not only lose money, they lose access to transport, their independence, and in some cases, their jobs.
The DBC say that the failure to include disability premiums as part of Universal Credit, and assessment criteria that poorly represents the needs of disabled people are just two examples of the problems that are leaving disabled people worse off.
As part of the research, 50 people living with a variety of conditions were interviewed about their experiences. Mr Whitfield and other MPs heard from speakers at the event about some of the issues, including people saying that they did not feel trusted, that they are constantly being challenged and that their word is doubted.
The DBC, which represents disabled people and people with long-term conditions including Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and mental health is calling on the Government to make urgent improvements to the system to enable a fairer benefits system that works for everyone.
Martin Whitfield MP said:
“It is shocking that disabled people are losing out on vital support because of a system that is meant to protect them. The impact on their health and wellbeing has been highly destructive and, in many cases, made their condition worse.
“These changes cannot continue to drive some of the most vulnerable people in East Lothian and across the UK into poverty. That’s why I am supporting the recommendations from the DBC for urgent reform.”
Michael Griffin, Research Lead for DBC and Senior Policy Adviser for Parkinson’s UK said:
“Thank you to Martin for showing his support at the launch event. For the first time, our research has shown just how much disabled people are bearing the brunt of the disastrous changes to welfare.
“Many disabled people have not yet even experienced the full extent of the cuts because they are still waiting to be moved over to Universal Credit. However, when this happens there will be a surge in poverty among those who are already at a crisis point.
“This is simply disgraceful and cannot be allowed to continue. The Government must make urgent improvements to the application processes and assessment criteria, and resolve the flaws in Universal Credit before more people are denied the support they desperately need to live independently.”