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Five week Universal credit wait having a devastating impact on disabled people

19 June 2019

Disabled people face unavoidable costs as a result of their disability and cannot afford to lose substantial sums each year, yet under Universal Credit, the reality is that many disabled people are significantly worse off, says the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC).

 The DBC, of which Disability Rights UK is a member, is a national coalition of charities and other organisations committed to working towards a fair benefits system.

The five week wait for a first payment is having a devastating impact on disabled people with a significant number having to wait even longer, says the DBC. Even once payments have been made, the lack of a disability element within Universal Credit means disabled people are struggling financially.

The DBC recently surveyed around 500 disabled people about their experience of Universal Credit. The survey highlights some serious concerns and deeply worrying findings:

 “30% of people told us that waiting for a payment meant they couldn’t eat. 30% told us they couldn’t heat their home. 40% of people got behind with their rent or mortgage, which for some led to eviction.

Over 30% of people we surveyed told us that waiting for their first payment had meant they were forced to use a food bank. People are falling into debt or relying on family and friends to get them though. Most worryingly, a number of people said they had considered suicide.”

… People told us that the impact of having less money includes struggling to pay for food (70%), driving a significant number of people to food banks (35%) and a worsening of people’s health, in particular their mental health (85%) and again, most worryingly driving people to consider suicide.”

In the last few weeks, the DWP has been running a series of newspaper advertorials to “myth-bust common inaccuracies.” The DWP state that advance payments are available to help people during the five week wait. What they fail to make clear is that these advance payments are in fact loans that have to be paid back.

The DBC has sent a letter of complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Despite reassurances from the government that people who have had their Severe Disability Premium removed will receive a backdated payment and those yet to claim will have transitional protection applied, people are still waiting. Even when they do receive backdated payments, it will still not cover the money they lost.

The DBC supports the Trussell Trust’s #5WeeksTooLongCampaign calling for an end to the five week wait for Universal Credit.

It adds:

“The DBC and its members urge the government to introduce a disability element to Universal Credit, to replace the disability premiums that have been cut from the system leaving disabled people unable to afford basic essentials.  

As the Department is looking to start migrating more disabled people onto Universal Credit, we ask the Government to listen to these experiences and not only improve the claiming process, but also the financial support available to disabled people. Until these problems are resolved, the managed migration process must not be allowed to go ahead and all current transfers from old benefits to UC should be paused.”

For more information see Universal Credit and Me available @ https://disabilitybenefitsconsortium.wordpress.com/

See also Around 1 in 2 Universal Credit claimants have benefit deducted to repay an Advance Payment