The Simon Heng Column

One of the main aims of Improving The Life Chances Of Disabled People (the government’s recent strategy paper) is to encourage people like me to get a job, changing the dependency culture that is life for so many disabled people – and potential employers.

Education, training, the Access To Work schemes and Jobcentre interviews for those on incapacity benefit, as well as tax credits, are the tools now used and, although they might be essential, they are not enough in themselves. A senior social services manager seemed surprised when we explained some of the other difficulties. This is what we meant.

Those of us who need care, who have had to learn the complex rules on benefits and eligibility criteria, know that it isn’t as simple as getting a job. Any level of income above the minimum wage means we would lose a raft of benefits: housing benefit, council tax relief, prescription charges. Add to that the loss of income support or incapacity benefit (plus the single disabled person’s allowance), and I calculate that we would need a net income of £320 a week (at least) before we broke even, let alone be better off financially.

If you tire easily and can only work part-time, you would have to look for a job that paid, pro rata, full-time – £33,000 a year! How many of us have, or train for, the skills and expertise to get a first job that paid that much?

If you had savings, this would be counted against independent living fund eligibility, an essential top-up to care packages. Any pension savings totalling more than £20,000 would remove eligibility for this funding: at a time when the government is encouraging everyone to put more into their pension funds, disabled people are actively discouraged from doing so.

If any of these calculations are wrong, please let me know. But this is the way we understand the system.

It is the government’s responsibility to find a way out of this conundrum if they really want disabled people to be included in this society.

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