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Why the £20 week UC uplift must be kept and extended to legacy benefits: new JRF briefing

04 December 2020

A new briefing from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) details the financial impact of Covid-19 on disabled people and their carers.

In turn, it makes the case as to why to £20 week UC lifeline must not end in April 2021, and why throw this same lifeline must be thrown to people on ‘legacy’ benefits (ESA, JSA and income support).

JRF highlight research from Scope from before the pandemic that suggested that, on average, disabled people face extra costs of £583 per month to sustain the same quality of life as a non-disabled person (even after disability benefits designed to meet those extra costs have been received).

In addition, one in five disabled adults face extra costs of over £1,000 per month. Examples of extra costs include specialist home or vehicle adaptations; therapies; equipment; sensory equipment or adapted toys for children; increased utility bills; taxis and higher insurance costs.

The new briefing shows why it's essential to make this same uplift to people who are on legacy benefits, most of whom are disabled, sick or carers, and sets out

  • how disabled people's financial circumstances have become even more precarious during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • the rising costs disabled people face
  • the reduction in their incomes and the heightened challenges they face in the labour market, and
  • the impact that extending the lifeline would have for people on legacy benefits.

The JRF says:

“Even without the impact of the pandemic, we know that households where someone is disabled or a carer are more likely to be in poverty. Nearly half of all individuals in poverty live in a household where someone is disabled and a quarter of unpaid carers live in poverty.

The pandemic has resulted in disabled people and carers facing rising costs, reduced incomes and heightened challenges in the labour market.

These factors may explain why we are seeing indicators that disabled people have been pushed into a more precarious financial position as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

As a result, the JRF recommend that, as well as keeping the £20 uplift in Universal Credit, the Government “must throw this same lifeline to people on legacy benefits, who have so far been cut adrift without this crucial support.”

Ken Butler DRUK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said:   

“JRF have clearly set out the facts and the case for both keeping and extending the UC £20 week UC uplift.

By restricting uplift only to Universal Credit the Government continues to discriminate against the millions of disabled people on other benefits. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, benefit cuts and austerity hit disabled people the hardest.

The question a responsible Government should consider is: are those on ESA, JSA and income support facing significant extra costs due to the pandemic like those on Universal Credit?

"The answer is clearly yes - so the £20 increase should also be payable to them.”

The JRF briefing The financial impact of COVID-19 on disabled people and their carers is available from .jrf.org.uk.

See also Government must end “crippling uncertainty” over £20 per week uplift to UC and legacy benefits, say coalition of 60 organisations available on this website.