Autumn statement: DBC response

Welfare Cap risks not meeting disabled people’s need

The Government’s welfare cap risks cutting essential help for disabled people and carers to stay independent and even in work, leading charities have warned.

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a national coalition of over 50 charities, including RNIB and Mencap, are concerned that the welfare cap, announced during the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement today, risks placing a dangerous limit on the total amount of support available for all disabled people.

The Government has announced that the overall spending on welfare from 2015 will be capped, without full information but excluding pensions. This leaves essential help for disabled people at risk, including Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), housing benefit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Disabled people already feel ‘hardest hit’ by cuts in support – and social security spending reductions of £19billion have led to some disadvantaged groups going without sufficient food, heating or medication (http://www.housing.org.uk/media/press-releases/disabled-people-cutting-back-on-food-and-bills-to-pay-bedroom-tax)

Hundreds of thousands of disabled people also only receive a1.4% increase in support despite soaring food, energy and transport costs under changes announced last year as well as being disproportionately affected by housing benefit changes (the ‘bedroom tax’).

But the Autumn statement says a new cap will be imposed, based on a forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

If the Chancellor spends above the cap, the Government will either have to cut benefit entitlements or make a statement in Parliament explaining why it has spent more than pledged.

Steve Winyard, Director of Policy at RNIB, speaking on behalf of the DBC says:

“The plans ignore needs and it is vital that welfare budgets are set according to need. We are extremely concerned about the principle on which this decision has been based – a cap on overall spending on disability benefits risks putting the cart before the horse.

By having a pre-determined cap disabled people could potentially be turned down for vital support simply because the government has decided there is no money in the pot. This is a whole new way at looking at social security, and one that is extremely worrying.

Disability benefits plays a key role in helping disabled people remain independent, work and participate in society. Setting an arbitrary limit means that many people could be left out of the system, costing the Government more in the longer term.”

ENDS

For more information please contact Neil.Coyle@RNIB.org.uk

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