Do not leave legacy benefit claimants out in the cold
We are the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a network of over 100 organisations with an interest in disability and social security. Using our combined knowledge, experience and direct contact with millions of disabled individuals, people with long-term health conditions and carers, we seek to ensure that Government policy reflects and meets the needs of all disabled people.
When the country was plunged into crisis by the pandemic, you wisely and swiftly gave those in receipt of Universal Credit a critical boost to their income in the form of the £20/week uplift. But you gave nothing to those on legacy benefits. During the height of the pandemic, we talked to disabled people about the unjust disparity between the treatment of people receiving Universal Credit and those who claim legacy benefits.
Lynn Pinfield, 51, from West Lothian was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in2018 and is unable to work as a result of her condition. She claims ESA, so was denied the £20 lifeline given to UC claimants. Lynn says: “I absolutely think this is a case of discrimination against disabled people. Everyone on benefits should be treated equally. They have made me feel like disabled people don’t matter.
“During the pandemic, prices were steadily increasing but benefits remained the same, which was a struggle. With everyone at home all the time, our bills soared – our electricity bill doubled – and I’ve had to pay it all myself with no extra support.”
Samantha, 50, from Southampton is partially sighted. She also lives with chronic spinal problems, bowel incontinence, nerve damage in her right foot, as well as depression and anxiety. She is on ESA and Personal Independence Payment (PIP),and relies heavily on her sister and 13-year-old son to care for her.
Talking about the impact of the pandemic on her finances, she says: “The Government have made me feel like a second class citizen – it’s incredibly unfair and discriminatory that they didn’t give people like me the extra £20 per week to help survive the pandemic. I understand the top up was for general living, but when you’re disabled your living expenses are exactly the same.
“My finances [had] taken a huge hit since the pandemic started. I couldn’t risk putting the heating on, so through winter we both had to wear three cardigans each. I had to make sure I was taking my medication as I was in a hell of a lot of pain – made worse by the cold.
“Having an extra £20 per week then, and now, would mean I could get a supermarket delivery and not rely on my son to be off school so he could push me in my wheelchair to the shops. ”Now we find our country in crisis once again – a crisis which is once again putting household budgets under incredible, untenable strain. You will be aware of the keen and urgent debate about how you and your colleagues might alleviate the acute financial stress that those on the lowest incomes are experiencing right now.
We are contacting you today to ask that claimants be compensated with either an uplift of at least the current rate of inflation or a restoration of the £20/week uplift. But whichever the intervention, it must be applied to all claimants. If you once again provide a much-needed cushion to those claiming Universal Credit, you must guarantee that disabled people claiming legacy benefits will this time not be not left out in the cold.
Co-chairs of the Disability Benefits Consortium
Anatasia Berry, MS Society
Caroline Collier, Inclusion Barnet
Dominic Milne, RNIB
Ella Abraham, Z2K
Geoff Fimister, IRRV
Hannah Nicholls-Harrons, Mencap
Matthew Harrison, Mencap
Nic Murray, Leonard Cheshire
Sue Christoforou, Parkinson’s UK