Benefit cuts: time for talking is over - we need direct action
With the budget bringing more cuts misery, Bill Scott from Inclusion Scotland asks what do you do when the Tories won't listen? Do you take direct action?
Disabled people are already disproportionately likely to live in poverty.
In 2012/13, 20% of individuals in families containing a disabled adult were living in relative poverty. For families with no disabled adults the figure was 14%.
However if the additional costs associated with disability are taken into account (that SCOPE estimates as being £500 a month on average) the New Policy Institute estimates that there are one million more households containing a disabled person living in poverty than are counted in official figures.
That would raise the poverty rate of disabled people in Scotland to around 26% - i.e. nearly twice the rate for non-disabled people.
The cut to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) announced in the budget and the cut to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) rate of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) pushed through the Westminster parliament the week before are going to massively increase the number of disabled people in poverty and the depth of the poverty they experience.
The time may have come for the talking to stop and for direct action to begin
The cut to PIP announced in the budget is expected to eventually make “benefit savings” of £1.2 billion per annum. The change is in the points awarded to those who use aids and appliances to complete tasks in the “descriptors” which make up the assessment for entitlement to PIP.
Essentially the number of points awarded is to be reduced from two points to one point if an aid or appliance is used to assist the disabled person in the completion of a task. This will result in some disabled people scoring fewer points and thus not qualifying for the benefit, or only qualifying at a lower rate.
Potentially over 600,000 people who currently qualify by scoring all or some of their points through the use of aids and appliances could be affected when they are reassessed in the future - as will any person who makes a new claim to PIP.
However, with good advice and advocacy, some disabled people may be able to maintain their entitlement through scoring additional points in other descriptors.
To make the savings that the chancellor wishes to see over 200,000 disabled people would need to lose all of their PIP entitlement.
This cut to PIP comes on top of the cut to the WRAG element of ESA . That cut will eventually see more than 230,000 sick and disabled people losing £29.05 a week and is also expected to eventually “save” around £1.2 billion a year.
A massive problem is that there will be a significant overlap between those who are losing the daily living component of PIP and those who will lose the additional WRAG component of ESA. Potentially tens of thousands could lose both.
Not only that but in families where there is a carer they will lose Carers Allowance because the person they are caring for has lost their PIP entitlement. Thus some families will lose more than £150 a week in benefits because of those two cuts alone.
Inclusion Scotland sees these cuts as a fundamental attack on disabled people’s UNCRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities) rights both to an adequate income and to live independently in the community.
The UK government has a legal duty to promote these rights rather than to destroy them.
Until now we have tried to convince the government to halt these attacks on disabled people’s human rights by presenting evidence and reasoned argument.
The time may have come for the talking to stop and for direct action to begin.
Bill Scott is director of policy at Inclusion Scotland.