Charities round on welfare reform plans

Disability and mental health charities, as well as carers' groups, have questioned the feasibility of the government's welfare reform plans, published yesterday.

Disability and mental health charities, as well as carers’ groups, have questioned the feasibility of the government’s welfare reform plans, published yesterday.

The Department for Work and Pensions is to unify almost all working age benefits and tax credits into a single universal benefit with a common withdrawal rate once people are in work.

Included in the new benefit will be employment and support allowance, paid to disabled people who are out of work, and jobseekers’ allowance.

Joe Jorner, director of communications at The Stroke Association, attacked the plans, saying: “A one-size-fits-all approach cannot be applied to people with disabilities.”

He said the recovery of stroke survivors could be put at risk by a system that failed to recognise their sudden drop in income and rise in expenditure.

Neil Coyle, director of policy at the Disability Alliance, said: “We have significant concerns that many disabled people will be affected by the harsher elements of reform, including experiencing benefit cuts, reduced support to find work, enforced work and even being cut from out of work benefits altogether.”

Coyle and Paul Jenkins, chief executive at mental health charity Rethink, said the harsher penalties planned for those who do not find work quickly put greater emphasis on the accuracy of the initial disability assessment. The work capability assessment, used to establish whether a person’s disability makes them eligible for employment and support allowance, has been criticised for not accurately determining capacity to work. Coyle and Jenkins said the government ought to acknowledge this and include it in reform.

Carer’s allowance was been left out of the universal credit plans despite the government’s acknowledgement that it was outdated and not fit for purpose.

“The 245,000 who receive carer’s allowance will be left with a benefit that is stuck in the 1970s. We are disappointed that the government did not take this opportunity for reform,” said Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK.

“Every day, carers face many of the difficult challenges that this White Paper is specifically designed to address – poverty, disincentives to work or study and systemic complexity and inflexibility in welfare. In announcing the White Paper, the government stated that it is time to find solutions to some of the perennial problems in welfare.

“Carers will ask why their benefit alone has been left on the ‘too difficult’ pile.”

Moira Fraser, director of policy at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, said carers would be confused by the lack of change and backed the call for urgent action.

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