Photo credit: Knox O (Wasi Daniju) via photopin cc

Government welfare reforms are unfairly targeting people with disabilities and leaving them more than £300 a month worse off, a leading charity has warned.

Research suggests that some single disabled people may be left more than £300 a month worse off under Universal Credit compared to benefits it is replacing, while reductions to in-work allowances are acting as a disincentive to disabled people to enter the world of work or increase the numbers of hours they currently work.

Citizens Advice, who has recently been awarded a multi-million pound contract to help vulnerable people navigate the Universal Credit system, says work allowances under Universal Credit for disabled and long-term sick benefit claimants “can only be accessed through the Work Capability Assessment, which gives benefits awards to people unable to work, rather than for disabled people who can work”.

The nationwide charity says this “creates the situation where a worker must be assessed as not fit for work to receive targeted in-work support”.

According to research by the charity:

  • Working disabled people on Universal Credit could be more than £300 per month worse off because they struggle to access the Work Allowance while in work.
  • Working disabled people who do get the Work Allowance could be more than £200 per month worse off due to weaker support from the Work Allowance when compared to support for disabled workers in Tax Credits.
  • Disabled people who can only do limited work have their benefit reduced after working just 6 hours a week at the minimum wage if they have housing costs, rather than 16 hours a week in the previous system. This means somebody working 12 hours a week can be over £100 a month worse off.
  • People without a carer and unable to work who make a new Universal Credit claim can be £180 a month worse off because the Severe Disability Premium was removed.

Citizens Advice research into Universal Credit finds that “some people lose large chunks of income if they work just a few more hours”, and calls for simplifications to the new benefit system so that disabled people don’t face a financial “cliff edge” if they choose to increase their working hours.

Citizens Advice identifies four key measures they say the Government should commit to in order to better help people with disabilities and long-term medical conditions:

  • Ensure working people receive targeted in-work financial support if they are disabled or have a health condition.
  • Ensure disabled people with a Limited Capability for Work are able to trial part-time work without facing a significant penalty in their benefits.
  • Review the removal of the Limited Capability for Work element, worth £29 a week, and the introduction of a personal support package.
  • Introduce targeted financial support through a self-care element for disabled people who live alone without an adult carer.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said: “Some disabled people will be unfairly disadvantaged under Universal Credit.

“Working disabled people need to prove they are unfit to work to get support meant for them. This goes against the government’s aim to support a million disabled people into work.

“Even when disabled people do get the support meant for them under Universal Credit, whether they are in work or not, they can be hundreds of pounds worse off a month than the previous system. This is money people desperately need to cover their bills.

“The government needs to address this and increase the financial support disabled people can receive under Universal Credit.”