Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Think the UK has the most ‘generous’ disability benefits? Think again!

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Damning new figures obtained by an independent news agency rubbishes claims by UK ministers that the UK has one of the most generous welfare systems for people with disabilities or long-term illness.

Evidence suggests that rather than being a “world leader” in support for disabled people, the UK lanquishes far behind other developed countries in regard to the financial support it provides to disabled people and their families.

Figures obtained by Disability News Service (DNS) reveal that the UK currently provides less generous disability benefits than eleven other European countries.

The data shows that the UK’s social security system for disabled people is rated just twelth. Behind countries like Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Germany, France, Luxembourg and even Lithuania, Slovakia and Hungary.

The data includes spending on disability benefits, such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance as the main disability benefit for people with disabilities and other impairments.

DNS founder John Pring explains: “The claim that the UK is one of the world’s most generous countries when it comes to disability has been used repeatedly by work and pensions ministers such as Iain Duncan Smith, who claimed in 2014 that “[we] probably spend more than almost any other country in the developed world” and “nearly double what Germany spends”.

Mr Pring adds: “Ministers have also repeatedly claimed that the UK spends more on disability than France, one of the seven major economies that make up the G7, and DWP repeated that claim yesterday (Wednesday).

“The Eurostat figures also demolish those claims, as they show that France spends about 2.9 per cent of its GDP on sickness and disability, compared to 2.5 per cent in the UK.”

Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd MP. Photo: Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0]

The news comes as Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd (pictured) promised a review into benefits for the terminally ill.

Rules mean that those with a terminal illness can be fast tracked through the benefits assessment process, but this only applies where claimants are not expected to live longer than six months.

A recent inquiry described the current systen as “outdated” and “arbitrary”, whilst arguing that the statutory ‘six month rule’ means that some terminally ill claimants have been refused vital financial assistance, forcing some to turn to high-cost lenders and loan sharks to make ends meet.

Drew Hendry MP, Chair of the All Parliamentary Group On Terminal Illness, who carried out the inquiry, said: “The current rules seriously restrict access to vital financial support for many terminally ill people, whose condition will never improve and only deteriorate until they die, but who may live for longer than six months.”

In response, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has ordered a review into benefits for the terminally ill.

“Having a life limiting illness or severe condition can cause unimaginable suffering for the patient and for their loved ones”, she said.

“Having seen it in my own family I know that the last thing you need is additional financial pressures or unnecessary assessments.

“So that’s why today I am beginning work on a fresh and honest evaluation of our benefits system so that I can be sure that people who are nearing the end of their life are getting the best possible support.

“I hope that this comprehensive evaluation of how we treat those with severe conditions and terminal illnesses will help ensure these vulnerable people get the support they need from our benefits system.

“I want people to have confidence in what we do at the DWP, ensuring no one is suffering unnecessary hardship at this especially difficult time.”


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