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Nearly half of disabled people hit by the benefits freeze can’t afford essential bills

02 September 2019

New research from Citizens Advice shows that nearly half of disabled people hit by the benefits freeze (44%) have gone without essentials such as food and toiletries.

From April 2016 there has be no increase in benefit rates ‘for people of working age'. This affects JSA, ESA, Income Support, Housing Benefit, Universal Credit, Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits and Child Benefit.

The rates freeze does not apply include PIP, Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and the support group of ESA, and the disability elements in tax credits. Carers and pensioner benefits and statutory maternity and sickness payments are also not affected by the rates freeze.

Citizens Advice also highlight that:

  • 49% of benefit claimants affected by the benefits freeze have struggled to meet essential costs such as rent, household bills and food;
  • 45% of households with children went without in the past 12 months; and
  • 40% have lost sleep due to money worries in the past 12 months.

The findings are worse for Universal Credit claimants, with over half (55%) having gone without essentials such as food.

Citizens Advice is calling for these solutions from the government:

  • end the freeze on benefit rates. Uprate payments by the Consumer Prices Index plus 2% for four years. Recalculate the Local Housing Allowance to at least the 30th percentile of local rents and re-establish the link with rental prices.
  • reduce the five-week wait by bringing forward the first non-repayable payment to no later than two weeks into a Universal Credit claim.

Gillian Guy Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said:

“We’ve found people are losing sleep and unable to afford essential things like food and housing while receiving Universal Credit. It is totally unacceptable that our benefits system is not providing the financial safety net that people need.

The government needs to take urgent action in this week’s spending review by reducing the five-week wait for Universal Credit and ending the freeze on benefit rates.”

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said:

“While the Government has said there are “no current plans” to extend or maintain the benefit freeze after March 2020 this is not good enough.

Those on low incomes disproportionately spend their incomes on essentials – especially food, electricity and transport. This means that when prices rise, and incomes don’t keep pace they are left cutting back on essentials and facing increasing hardship.

The Government needs to pledge to end the benefits freeze as soon as possible and commit to raising benefits and tax credits at least in line with inflation.”

For more information see Half of benefit claimants hit by the benefits freeze can’t afford essential bills.

See also Disabled adults four times worse off financially than non-disabled adults finds new DBC report.