A leading disability charity has called on the UK Government to exempt all Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants from the benefit cap, as Department for Work and Pensions statistics show that 15% of capped households include a person in the ESA work related activity group (WRAG).
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and its predecessor Disability Living Allowance, as well as claimants in the ESA support group, are already exempt from the benefit cap, but DRUK says this should be extended to ESA WRAG claimants.
Recent DWP statistics show that around 40% of households (23,100) have had a cap on their benefits lifted since the controversial policy was introduced, after moving into employment and claiming in-work tax credits due to low pay.
But the same statistics also reveal that 15% of households subject to the benefit cap include a person in the ESA WRAG group, despite significant barriers to employment and additional living costs associated with disability or a long-term health condition.
[contextly_sidebar id=”GkgYpagbNCVBCf8BnlVKmw5dmGW9AJKS”]National disability charity Scope says people with disabilities face additional living costs of around £500 a month. While disabled people can make a claim for PIP to help cover these additional living costs, the maximum amount a person can receive is only around £360 a month and tough new eligibility criteria mean not everyone will qualify, or will only receive much less.
Liz Sayce DR UK’s CEO said: “People who are disabled or have a long term health condition face a range of obstacles as they try to get and keep a job.
“For people in the work related activity group who want to get back into work (and many would like to) it’s clear what is needed: much more flexible practices from employers (for instance, so people with fluctuating conditions could work when they can), with advice and support for employers to make that happen, and really personalised support for disabled people that is actually effective.
“We need a strong strategy from government to help disabled people and employers make this happen – not capping benefits or reducing entitlement to disability benefit via PIP that just drive disabled people into greater poverty.”
Lack of adequate support, both financial and otherwise, can leave disabled people and those with a long-term health condition trapped in a life of poverty, whilst also making it more difficult for them to find or stay in work.
People with disabilities face significant barriers to employment and are far less likely to be in work than non-disabled people, 46% compared to 80%. In August 2015, the former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith admitted the low employment rate among disabled people “isn’t because of a lack of aspiration on the part of those receiving benefits….in fact, the majority want to work or stay in work“.
“First, some employers are reluctant to employ people with disabilities”, he said.
“Second, the poor quality of support they receive leads to many sick and disabled people languishing in a life without work, when work is actually possible for them.”
New research published today found that half of people living in poverty in the UK are either disabled or live with a disabled person. Researchers said the findings show why reducing poverty among disabled people must be at the heart of any attempts to reduce overall poverty in the UK.
Researchers also found that disabled people face multiple disadvantages in the labour market, including lower pay than non-disabled workers and lower levels of qualifications.
Green Party Disability Spokesperson Mags Lewis said the research “shines a light on the dreadful inequality still facing disabled people in our society – and must be a wake-up call to Theresa May”.