Government welfare reforms risk driving disabled people and poorer families into deeper poverty, campaigners have warned after the government issued its Welfare Reform Bill today.
The legislation would reduce annual spending on welfare by £3.9bn by 2014-15. Of this £2.5bn would come from replacing disability living allowance by a new more tightly focused benefit, personal independence payment (PIP), and time-limiting employment and support allowance, the replacement for incapacity benefit, for some claimants.
The National Autistic Society warned the introduction of face-to-face assessments for all PIP claimants could disadvantage adults with autism.
“Many adults with autism are extremely worried about the possibility of losing benefits they desperately rely on and the proposed reforms to the welfare system are pushing them to a state of near constant anxiety,” said chief executive Mark Lever.
The government was also slammed for going ahead with its plan to scrap DLA mobility payments to publicly-funded care home residents.
“Disability charities and disabled people have overwhelmingly told the government that this is a change that will have a devastating impact on people’s lives and runs completely counter to all the government’s stated objectives to support disabled people to live independently,” said Guy Parckar, acting director of policy and campaigns at Leonard Cheshire Disability.
However, he welcomed a government pledge to review the evidence around this policy.
Ministers have scrapped plans to cut housing benefit by 10% for those who have been claiming jobseeker’s allowance for over a year, a move welcomed by many groups.
“Government has recognised that this is a draconian measure that would have undermined households’ abilities to pay the rent, regardless of the job market they were living in, or the level of endeavour they were putting in to find work,” said CIH deputy chief executive Richard Capie.
Carers UK backed the government’s decision not to include carer’s allowance in the universal credit, the unified means-tested benefit for people of working-age that the bill would create.
“It is clear that the government were considering drawing carer’s allowance into the new system and if this had been the case, hundreds of thousands of carers would have faced a means-test and the risk of losing their carer’s allowance and a key recognition of their contribution to society,” said chief executive Imelda Redmond.
The universal credit, which would replace a range of existing benefits, is designed to boost work incentives by enabling people to keep more of their benefits when entering work, and is at the heart of the bill.
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “Our reforms will end the absurdity of a system where people too often get rewarded for doing the wrong thing, and those who strive to do the best by their families get penalised.”
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