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Petition calls for action on disability benefits

This news post is over 1 year old

Campaigners have said those with disabilities are struggling and need a cash boost they have been promised

A petition has called for disabled people to be given money they have been promised.

More than 119,000 people have signed a petition calling for the two million disabled people, lone parents and families who receive legacy benefits, like Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Jobseekers Allowance and Income Support, to stop being denied the £20 uplift that millions on Universal Credit were given at the start of the pandemic.

The Don’t Leave Disabled People Behind petition was set up by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a network of over 100 organisations, including the MS Society, Z2K, Disability Rights UK and Inclusion London, handed to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, today – ahead of the spending review and annual benefit uprating.

For more than eight months, thousands of people living with a disability or with long-term health conditions have faced immense hardship as a result of the pandemic – from having to spend more on safely accessing food and getting to and from medical appointments, to paying more for vital care.

Kevin Whitworth from the Isle of Lewis has lived with brain damage following a fall just over 10 years ago. He has received ESA since 2016, and for the last seven months hasn’t been able to afford food to make a cooked meal. He said: “Money is tight, and I’m living off of cereal. Having an extra £20 would mean that I could eat proper meals again. It’s really unfair that people like me on older legacy benefits aren’t getting the same help those on Universal Credit are getting – we need money as well.

Karen Pickering from the west coast of Scotland was diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2007. Since March, Karen has only left the house a handful of times as she has been shielding – this has meant her bills are higher than ever. She said: “Being stuck at home for the last seven months has meant my cost of living has gone up. I can’t just pop out to get a loaf of bread, so I’m having to pay for regular food deliveries. I can’t get out to walk my dog every day and instead have to pay for a dog walker – it all adds up.

“I had no idea I was missing out on £20 a week, but it’s really upsetting to think my needs aren’t considered as important as others. The money might not seem a lot to the government, but it would make the world of difference to me.”

Despite the DBC writing an open letter to the Chancellor, as well as hundreds of people writing to their own MPs asking for urgent change, the only response from the government has been to say that the uplift would be “too complicated” for its computer system. On top of this, the Social Security Advisory Committee said in June that it is “increasingly untenable for this group of claimants [people on legacy benefits] to be excluded”. And yet, the Chancellor has remained silent on the issue.

Ella Abraham, Z2K’s policy and campaigns officer and campaigns co-chair of the DBC, saod: "For disabled people and others on legacy benefits, being denied the £20 per week life line that those on Universal Credit have received has meant real hardship. It is unacceptable for the government to maintain that only those who have had to claim Universal Credit as a result of the pandemic are in financial need.

“The government must take this opportunity in the upcoming spending review to act now, end this discriminatory two tier welfare state and ensure that the two million people on legacy benefits receive this vital extra support and are no longer left behind."

Anastasia Berry, policy manager at the MS Society and policy co-chair of the DBC, said: “It is a disgrace that the government has ignored the needs of disabled people, including those with MS, for over eight months. Time and time again they have been asked to provide extra financial support for a group of people who, through no fault of their own, happen to be on a different benefit to others.

“MS is relentless, painful and disabling, and around a third living with the condition rely on ESA because they are simply unable to work. The poor excuse of an outdated and archaic computer system is no longer valid as we approach the announcement of the annual benefit uprating. The Government must act now, and stop discriminating against disabled people.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We are wholly committed to supporting disabled people through the pandemic, boosting welfare support by £9.3 billion to help those most in need, introducing the Covid Winter Support Package for those on low incomes and making £3.7 billion available to local authorities to help address pressures on local services including adult social care.”

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