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Universal Credit £20 week increase must be extended to ESA, DBC tells Chancellor

03 June 2020

Disabled people receiving ESA have been missing out on a emergency £20 week out of work benefit top up to help them through the Covid-19 crisis as the Government says it will take too long to make changes.

The most recent DWP figures show that 1,976,000 disabled people claim ESA.

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a network of over 100 organisations, including DR UK, has been told the reason people on all legacy benefits have not received the same £20 uplift as those claiming Universal Credit is because it is “too complicated” for the Government computer system.

In addition, on 27 May Neil Couling, the DWP’s Senior Responsible Owner for Universal Credit, said the emergency £20 was only ever intended for new claimants, and it was a “windfall gain” for existing ones.

He added that they wanted to help “people affected by the pandemic”, but failed to acknowledge the impact the virus has had on disabled people – and will have for a long time to come.

This has meant for 60 days people living with a disability or with long-term health conditions on ESA – who tend to have lower incomes and higher costs than the general population – have missed out on financial help during the pandemic.

This is despite a April 2020 DBC survey finding 95% of disabled people had seen an increase in their costs as a result of the pandemic – from needing more money to safely access food to having to pay for higher heating and water bills while shielding at home. 

Last month, the DBC set up the Don’t Leave Disabled People Behind petition which has received over 115,000 signatures.

It has now written a letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, urging him to end the discrimination against disabled people, and for pay to be backdated to when the top up to Universal Credit was introduced.

Yesterday, the Social Security Advisory Committee said that “it is increasingly untenable for this group of claimants [people on legacy benefits] to be excluded”.

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said: "To blame an IT problem for not awarding disabled people a much needed increase in benefit is discriminatory and unacceptable.

“Even before the covid-19 crisis, benefit cuts and austerity hit disabled people the hardest.

“The £20 week temporary increase to Universal Credit and tax credits is welcome but should be made permanent.

“It must be properly extended to disabled people on ‘legacy benefits’ such as ESA. In addition, the Work-Related Activity Group and Universal Credit equivalent Limited Capability for Work addition should be restored."

A petition calling for the £20 a week benefit set up by the DBC has already received 115,000 signatures. You can sign the petition here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-leaving-disabled-people-behind.

For more information see ‘Computer says no’ – Government excuse for hundreds of thousands of disabled people denied emergency Covid support available from disabilitybenefitsconsortium.wordpress.com