Poverty campaigners call for 13% increase to disability benefits

Disability poverty campaigners demand further support for disabled people.

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Anti-poverty campaigners have written to the Chancellor demanding further support for disabled people hit by the ongoing cost of living crisis.

In particular, they call for a 13% ‘uplift’ to disability benefits and a ban on all arrears-related deductions from benefits, such as for benefit advances and energy arrears.

The letter reads as follows:

On behalf of the Disability Poverty Campaign Group (DPCG), I am writing to ask that the Government take urgent action to better protect Disabled people from the cost-of-living crisis— including catastrophic predicted increases in energy costs, which are set to increase with the October 2022 and January 2023 price cap rises.

Millions of Disabled people now live in poverty. They simply do not have the means to survive this national crisis.

Disabled people commonly have extra costs that relate to our impairments and health conditions.

These extra costs typically come from necessary outgoings on food, residential and domiciliary care and support services, specialist medical equipment, accessibility devices, energy, fuel and travel costs. The Bank of England predicts further rises in inflation in 2021.

We have legitimate cause to believe that, without urgent Government action, energy costs and wider inflationary pressures will result in avoidable loss of life over the winter months.

It is in the national interest that Government act now to save Disabled people’s lives.

We call on the Treasury to put in place the following measures by 1 October 2022:

• Benefits—including the ‘extra-costs benefits’ (PIP, DLA and AA)—must receive an emergency uprating. The uprating must at least match the latest Bank of England predicted inflation rate of 13%.
• Act to ban all arrears-related deductions from benefits.
• Revise the eligibility criteria for the Warm Home Discount to reinstate eligibility for the 300,000 Disabled benefit claimants whose entitlement to the rebate has, in our view, been wrongfully removed.
• Put in place further targeted, non-repayable welfare support to Disabled people in vulnerable circumstances—we refer the Treasury to the relevant provisions of the Equality Act.

Further, we ask for the Treasury to support our calls for the following wider actions from Government:

• Statutory social care service provision must become free at the point of use. We call for a ban on care charge debt-recovery actions against Disabled and pension-age statutory social care service users.
• Require the tariff for pre-payment meters to be the same as tariffs paid by standard meter customers.
• Disabled people must have better protections in place to ensure continuous energy supply this winter — we draw the Government’s attention to the high risk to Disabled people on low income and with neurological, cognitive and psychosocial impairments of ‘self disconnection’.

Chancellor, you will be aware of the wealth of recent evidence showing the impact of the current financial crisis on Disabled people.

Citizens Advice (CA) has published new data on the impact of energy price rises showing unprecedented numbers of people are now unable to afford to top-up pre-payment meters.

We note CA’s particular concern about Disabled citizens with higher energy needs, who are struggling with inadequate levels of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and delays in the processing of PIP.

CA’s research shows that the value of energy debt is now almost twice 2019 levels. 5 New data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on 5 August show that “Disabled people [are] more likely than non-disabled people to have reduced their spending on food and essentials because of their increased costs of living (42%, compared with 31%).”

This research also shows the precarious nature of Disabled people’s finances. 49% of Disabled people could meet an unexpected additional cost of £850, as opposed to 64% of non-disabled people.

We would welcome an early meeting to discuss these concerns and the measures that we are keen to assist the Government in taking to support and protect Disabled people this winter.

Yours Sincerely
Kamran Mallick
On behalf of the DPCG

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