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Chancellor receives 120,000 strong Don’t Leave Disabled People Behind petition today

18 November 2020

Around 120,000 people have signed a petition calling for the two million disabled people, lone parents and families who receive legacy benefits, like ESA, JSA and Income Support, to stop being cruelly 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 with an interest in disability and social security including Disability Rights UK, the MS Society, Z2K, and Inclusion London.  

The petition has been handed to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak today – ahead of the Spending Review and annual benefit uprating.

For over 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 – who features in the ‘Don’t Leave Disabled People Behind’ campaign video – 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.

Kevin says:

“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.

Karen says:

“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 their 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.

Ken Butler DR UK's Welfare Rights and Policy Adivser said:

“The response so far by the Chancellor to the uplifting of legacy benefits is unacceptable.

While ESA, JSA and Income Support were increased by 1.7% in April 2020, Universal Credit was also subject to a similar increase.

What the Chancellor seems to have forgotten is the four year benefit increase freeze that preceded this. Or that since April 2017, the £30 week limited capability for work addition was no longer payable to new claimants of ESA.

In addition, since January 2019 those who receive the severe disability premium have been barred from even claiming Universal Credit .

By restricting the £20 week increase only to Universal Credit and Working Tax 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 Chancellor 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.”

DR UK’s Fazilet Hadi said: “We are looking for the Chancellor to announce the extension of this uplift to legacy benefits in the Budget on 25 November. This will give the DWP time to update their IT systems in advance of April 2021. With so many government departments talking about the DDA this month, and the rights of disabled people to parity and equality, it beggars belief that we are being left behind with the excuse that ‘computer says no’.”

You can sign the Don't Leave Disabled People Behind petition at 38degrees.org.uk.

You can write to your MP asking them to back the £20 uplift campaign by using a template letter to email here @ https://www.z2k.org/increase-legacy-benefits/

More information about the Don't Leave Disabled People Behind campaign is available from disabilitybenefitsconsortium.com.

You can watch the DBC petition hand in video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv5Mr7E7i1I

See also Joint open letter from over 50 charities urges Chancellor to keep and expand the £20 week Universal Credit lifeline available from disabilityrightsuk.org.