Open letter urges Government to increase disability benefits and widen eligibility criteria to prevent 'devastating humanitarian crisis'
Disability campaign groups have written an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling for her to increase disability benefits, and their eligibly criteria, in a bid to prevent a "devastating humanitarian crisis".
The letter has been jointly sent by the Disability Poverty Campaign Group (DPCG), which is made up of organisations, and national charities working to prevent poverty in the disabled community, as well as the Disability Benefits Consortium - a national coalition of over 100 charities and other organisations.
The letter highlights growing issues disabled people face as the cost of living crisis continues to rise. Key actions it asks Liz Truss to take are to:
- Increase benefits by 1 October, when the new energy price cap of £2,500 a year for typical users comes in, so they're in line with inflation.
- Widen the eligibility criteria for the Warm Home Discount, so it includes more disabled people.
- Increase the minimum income guarantee (MIG) for statutory social care recipients, at least in line with inflation, by 1 October. The MIG is an amount set aside to cover everyday expenses when you receive local authority arranged home care. This is usually set at a weekly amount.
We've inserted the full letter below but if you're not sure if you're eligible to receive benefits, use our 10-minute benefits checker or see our 31 Money saving tips for disabled people guide for more help on cutting costs.
Letter to the Prime Minister Liz Truss from disability campaign groups
14 September 2022
Dear Prime Minister,
This is a joint letter from the Disability Poverty Campaign Group, which is disabled-led, and the Disability Benefits Consortium, a network of over 100 major disability charities. We are writing to call your urgent attention to the devastating and intensifying levels of poverty faced by disabled people in the UK.
Disability poverty rates are rising. Given this, we have a duty to convey to you in the strongest terms that the pressures created by rising energy and food costs, inadequate and rising social care costs must be met with robust, immediate action by your Government if we are to avert a humanitarian crisis.
Prime Minister, we remind you that in our country, nearly 50% of households in poverty have at least one disabled member.
The scale of the crisis
Disabled people are already rationing how often they use oxygen concentrators and turning off the heating—even in cases where the person is unable to regulate their own body temperature. These forced choices will have catastrophic consequences.
We urge you to consider the reality of disability-related energy costs: these include the need for a well-heated home to maintain health and wellbeing; electricity usage for the charging and operating of power chairs, scooters, lifts, hoists, electric shower-toilets, and medical equipment such as ventilators, feeding pumps, and dialysis machines.
Disabled people are particularly at risk in a cost-of-living crisis, with a disproportionate negative impact falling on disabled women (particularly single mothers), disabled children, disabled people of colour, disabled people with complex needs, disabled people living in rural areas and the elderly.
Even before April’s increase in the energy price cap, disabled people made up 62% of those using Trussell Trust food banks, 60% of those asking Citizens Advice for help with fuel bills, and more than 600,000 disabled people in the UK were recently estimated to have £10 or less per week to pay for food and other costs.
Many low, and fixed-income, disabled people pay towards their social care and support, including from means-tested benefits, leaving people in dire poverty and mental distress. Levels of social care charge-related debt are rising.
The Government had to make a recent amendment to the charging statutory guidance to ensure that cost-of-living support payments are not subsequently taken by local authorities in care charges. Every day, disabled people-led organisations are confronted with the poverty created by a system that charges low and fixed-income disabled people for meeting their statutory care needs.
The last Parliament saw a package of support measures to combat the cost-of-living crisis. People who receive disability benefits will get a one-off payment of £150 by the end of September and everyone receiving a means-tested benefit will receive an additional £650. The DPCG welcome this support.
However, those in receipt of disability benefits will lose £150 this Autumn, with the removal of their eligibility for the Warm Home Discount (WHD). Therefore, disabled people not in receipt of means-tested benefits are not set to see any actual gain from the £150 payment.
We appreciate that you have offered your public support for the business community and employees at this time of crisis—and they of course include disabled workers. However, we need your assurance that you recognise the cost-of-living crisis will create destitution and risk to life for citizens who face complex structural barriers to earning income. This includes those severely disabled people with limited or no capacity for paid employment.
Further, people receiving Carer’s Allowance were not mentioned in the support package, despite the very high rates of poverty seen in this cohort, and the energy use of at-home carers being higher than those working outside the home.
In recent weeks, we have seen media reports that the Government is set to increase benefits levels next April, by 10% (i.e., the end of September Consumer Prices Index rate). This is a step in the right direction— but given predicted inflation will not be sufficient to prevent avoidable loss of life.
However, we were dismayed to see the Government has rejected a plea from the Work and Pensions Committee that benefits rise immediately given the scale of the crisis and the widening gap between income and outcome. We as a community feel that without immediate action, the consequences for disabled people are going to be devastating.
Respect and compassion
Prime Minister, we call on you to govern in a spirit of compassion and respect towards all disabled people, including those with no recourse to public funds, and to pledge to unequivocally strengthen their rights in your policies and legislation.
Further, we urge your Government to resist any articulation of stereotyping that risks misleading the public about the diverse lives and complex challenges of disabled people and all in poverty. Any vilification of those in precarity weakens the bonds and resilience of our communities and our collective ability to manage the present crisis.
Immediately required actions
- Benefits must receive an emergency uprating by 1 October 2022 in line with at least Bank of England predictions of inflation, currently 13%.
- The Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) for social care recipients must receive an emergency uprating at the statutory level—at least in line with the predicted rise in inflation by 1 October 2022. Further, the current legislation must change to require the secretary of state to uplift the statutory MIG at the annual review.
- Revise the eligibility criteria for the Warm Home Discount (WHD) to reinstate eligibility for the 300,000 disabled benefit claimants whose entitlement to the rebate has been wrongfully removed.
- Act to end all arrears-related deductions from benefits.
- Put in place further targeted, non-repayable social security support to low-income disabled people. The sufficiency of benefits levels must be urgently reviewed, including the ‘extra-costs benefits’ (PIP, DLA, and AA) designed to cover the additional costs of living with disability.
- We call on the Government to engage with disabled people-led organisations on their calls for the cost of social care provision to be borne by the Government, with provision made free at the point of need.
- Commit to communications strategy on a par with the HMRC's yearly tax return campaign to maximise the number of family carers in receipt of carers allowance, which is currently wholly inadequate.
- Reform the benefit system to make the process easier, faster and far more supportive.
Thank you for your attention, Prime Minister.
We are ready to meet with you and your ministers at your earliest convenience to work constructively together to uphold the rights of disabled people at this time of national crisis.
On behalf of The Disability Poverty Campaign Group
Caroline Collier, Julia Modern, Helen Rowlands, Lynne Turnbull, Dan White.
On behalf of the Disability Benefits Consortium
Ella Abraham, Anastasia Berry, Sue Christoforou, Geoff Fimister, Matthew Harrison, Dominic Milne, Nic Murray, Hannah Nicholls-Harrison.
cc. Fazilet Hadi, head of policy, Disability Rights UK; Svetlana Kotova, director of campaigns and justice, inclusion London; Baroness Jane Campbell.
What does the Government say?
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said it recognises that living with a long-term illness or disability impacts living costs. They added that the Government has supported six million disabled people with an extra £150 cost of living payment and has also put in place a "strong financial support system" for people with disabilities.