You could be misled into believing that disabled people are protected from benefit cuts when Iain Duncan Smith said that "they had nothing to fear" and the Chancellor claimed that "we will support the vulnerable." However, today in Parliament MPs voted to cap Employment and Support Allowance which will be limited to a rise of just 1% for the next three years. In real terms this is a cut as the rise falls well below inflation.
This income based benefit is given to people who have been through the ordeal of the flawed Atos work capability assessment and have been found unfit to work. They are too ill to "make work pay". Around 500,000 sick and disabled people depend upon this essential benefit to pay for their most basic necessities. The work related activity group includes people with progressive and chronic physical and mental illnesses, diseases and disabilities. Their benefit will not rise above 1%. The government claims to have protected disabled people in the ESA support group. This higher premium benefit is more difficult to receive because of a restrictive and narrow set of criteria which excludes all but the most severely disabled and terminally ill with short life expectancies. On closer analysis however, this too is subject to the real terms cut. It is made up of a basic allowance of £71.00 which is now capped at 1% and the support group component of £34.05 which is exempt and will rise with inflation. Essentially a benefit cap of 1.4%. This brings the total number of sick and disabled people effected by the cut to just under one million. Let's be clear. The government are not protecting disabled people.
A rise of one per cent equates to approximately £1 per week. Or one loaf of bread. This week the managing director of Waitrose has warned that the price of basic food items could rise as much as five per cent in 2013, or even higher across the whole market. The cost of utilities is also set to rocket further. For someone already battling with illness, at home needing to heat the house throughout the day these costs are simply not affordable. Disabled people are being forced to choose between food and heat, some are cancelling hospital appointments because of transport costs. This, at the same time as the very richest people in the UK who are earning over £150,000 receive a 5% tax cut.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has calculated that the minimum amount a single working age person needs to participate in society is £16,400 a year, or an hourly pay of £8.38. The average wage in 2012 was £26,000. "A disabled person in the support group will receive £5,486 a year, or £15 per day. Less still for those who have work related conditions attached to the benefit who receive a daily amount of £14.12. Barely enough to survive yet alone participate equally in society. To suggest that it's unfair that benefits have risen with inflation when working incomes have not risen at the same rate misses the point entirely. There is no fair comparison to be made. Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty and only a
small loss of income can tip people with a sickness and disability into greater
dependence on health and social care services.
This is yet another cut that disabled people were not anticipating. Since writing the WOW petition the government has attacked us yet again. This is why we ask for a cumulative impact assessment of ALL of the cuts that effect sick and disabled people. I urge you in your good conscience to please sign our petition so that the consequences of the cuts to benefits and the services they rely on can be fully recognised and hopefully, some of the damage may be undone.
The Benefits Uprating Bill. See how your MP voted. (scroll to the bottom of the link to find the list)