Government hits disabled community hard with proposed cuts to benefits

by Alexandra Pereira

THERE HAS been an angry reaction to the government’s recent plan to reduce the disability allowance by £29.

The Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is currently £102 but is set to be reduced down to £73, this coming April.

The decision to reduce the ESA comes despite the Work and Pensions Select Committee finding that there was no conclusive evidence that lowering payments would help motivate disabled people to find work.

Despite it welcoming a decision to make some disabled claimants exempt from having to be repeatedly assessed for ESA, it still has major concerns about assessments which were proposed in the recent  Work and Health Green paper.

Lauren Stonebanks, 37, who suffers from several mental illnesses such as Borderline personality disorder, depression and anxiety, said: “It won’t incentivise me to ‘get better’ enough to return to work.

“It will demoralise me and make me feel like I’m completely worthless. Taking that lifeline away is not going to magically make me better or make me suddenly eligible for treatment.

“Depriving me of £30 a week will not change this situation. In fact it will make me less able to get better and therefore even less able to work. I already struggle with finances because of aspects of my condition.

“Financial insecurity and welfare reform wreak havoc on my mental wellbeing. All this £30 cut will do is exacerbate many of worst aspects of my condition.

“My anxiety, which was already horrible, is now even worse and I didn’t think that was possible. I’m terrified of the post arriving.”

Linda Burnham, who is co-founder of DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) said: “DPAC are opposed to this pernicious cut to social security payments for disabled people who have been found not fit for work.

“We have been told by many people that to lose one-third of their current income would leave them in even greater poverty and unable to meet the extra costs associated with living with a disability.”

One person, who has asked not to be named, talked about the impact it would have on their financial situation and said: “It would make my finances worse.

“I’d struggle to pay for things and I’d not be able to afford to get to appointments.”

Disability factfile

-There are around 11.9 million disabled people in the UK.

-Almost 1 in 5 people (19%) in the UK have a disability; this figure has remained relatively constant over time (12.2 million in 2012/13).

-People from a white background are almost twice as likely as those from non-white ethnic groups to have a limiting long-standing illness or disability (20% compared with 11%).

-Disabled people are likely to be at the lower end of the earnings distribution. In 2015, the average hourly wage for disabled people was £12.48, compared to £13.73 for non-disabled people.

-The average cost of living for a disabled person is £550 more per month.

-For more statistics and figures visit the Papworth Trust

What is the ESA?

 ESA stands for the Employment and Support Allowance and this is benefit for people who are unable to work due to disability or illness

-What types of ESA are there?

 There are currently 2 types of ESA, 1) A Contribution-based ESA – you will receive this if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions and it’s also taxable. 2) An Income-related ESA – you receive this if you have a low income or no income at all. You don’t have to have paid National Insurance contributions and it isn’t taxable.

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