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DWP must not ‘betray’ disabled people moved to Universal Credit, say MPs

An influential group of MPs has warned that many disabled people face “disastrous” consequences when transferred to the Government’s flagship Universal Credit programme.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said that no Universal Credit claimant will be worse off when moved from legacy benefits to Universal Credit (UC), and that “severely disabled” claimants will get more in benefits than they would have under the benefits the system is replacing.

However, in a new report published today the Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPSC) says this comes at a price for disabled people and their families who are not deemed to be “severely” disabled by DWP.

Under the previous system disabled people who do not have a paid-for carer were able to claim top ups to their benefits: the Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums, worth up to £64 per week for a single person. But these premiums have been scrapped under Universal Credit.

The Committee says DWP “made a serious error” in removing disability premiums from UC while initially failing to provide existing recipients of those benefits with transitional support.

photo credit: dominikgolenia via photopin cc

MPs add remedial action taken by the DWP to provide support for people already in receipt of those benefits are welcome but only a stopgap: transitional protection can still be lost, and it erodes in value over time, they claim.

They argue that lower benefit payments for new Universal Credit claimants – who do not receive transitional protection – remains the largest single problem facing disabled claimants.

Removing disability premiums from Universal Credit risks undermining disabled people’s independence, the committee argues, leading to more isolated lives, relying on unpaid care, or simply being unable to complete certain basic daily tasks.

DWP claims to have “recycled” the money saved from removing them into support for the “most severely disabled” UC claimants, but the Committee’s report shows that even those claimants would receive less under Universal Credit than under the previous system.

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “The Government’s plans will see “very” disabled people getting the extra help they need at the cost of other disabled people.

“We have already seen the terrible cost of the Department’s failure to find out what is happening to the most vulnerable claimants in the transition to Universal Credit.

“People receiving the disability premiums are already, by definition, managing in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable in our society, and this includes disabled children, and children forced to care for a disabled parent.

“It would be a terrible betrayal of these people to allow another failure of planning in this mega reform to worsen their situations, even one bit.

“No one should ever be forced further into poverty, deprivation, miserable hardship by a policy reform.

“The Government must assure disabled people across this country that will not happen to them, and plan and put the measures in place to make that promise good.”

Marsha de Cordova MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People, said: “The Government must listen to the Committee report that highlights how Universal Credit is failing disabled people.

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“Disabled people are suffering as a result of a system that is acting as a vehicle for cuts and has removed vital disability premiums. It is shocking that disabled people are left waiting longer to receive Universal Credit.

“Labour will stop the rollout of Universal Credit and ensure that disabled people get the support they need to lead independent lives and participate fully in society.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “More than a million disabled people will be better off by £100 a month under universal credit and £3bn of funding will help protect families as they move over from the old system.

“Universal credit does work for the vast majority, and the managed migration regulations are set to be debated in parliament in due course.”

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