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Write to your MP to ensure £20 week UC increase is retained and extended to ESA

26 July 2021

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), of which DR UK is a member, has issued a Briefing to MPs and a template letter to send to your MP, highlighting the need to retain the £20 week Universal Credit uplift and extend to and extend it to legacy benefits.

The DBC says:

“In March 2020, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government announced a temporary emergency increase of £20 per week for both Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits. However the same increase was not extended to other ‘legacy’ benefits, such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), leaving around two million disabled people without this urgently-needed support.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee and the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) as well as a number of MPs from across the House have now called for the uplift to be introduced.

The Government has not changed its position or acknowledged the discrimination the lack of uplift causes to those on disability benefits, citing the lifting of the benefit freeze, a complex computer system, and suggesting people could move to UC as reasons not to extend the £20 uplift to those on legacy benefits.

We believe that these reasons are unfair and disadvantage many vulnerable people who through no fault of their own are on the legacy benefits system. In particular the suggestion that people could move to UC is deeply concerning as many claimants could be worse off moving to UC for a number of reasons including;

  • Receiving overall less on UC than on legacy benefit
  • Receiving less overall should the uplift be removed in April
  • Face the accessibility issues surrounding the application and management of a UC claim.”

 It adds:

“DBC were deeply disappointed that the Spending Review and the recent Budget not only failed to extend the £20p/w uplift to legacy benefits but that these benefits will increase by only 37p per week (at the basic rate) for this financial year.

 To tackle the months of additional costs that disabled people have faced during the pandemic, the Government must commit to extend the £20 per week uplift to legacy benefits and begin work to implement this immediately.

Additionally, the High Court recently announced that it will be hearing a case in September from two people on ESA who are challenging this decision. We await the outcome with interest.

However, an extra £20 a week in no way meets the real needs of disabled people who rely on benefits. It will help ease some immediate hardships, but it still wouldn’t mean the amount people receive is enough to live well.”

The DBC concludes:

“In order to make sure the levels of payments of disability benefits better reflect the actual cost of living with a disability or long-term health condition, regular, independent surveys should be established to understand the actual costs people face. Such surveys and assessments of benefit adequacy must include ‘extra costs’ benefits such as Personal Independence Payment and Disability Living Allowance.

In addition, action must be urgently taken to reverse the damaging impact of recent policies that have contributed to cutting the amount many people receive, to often seriously low levels:

  • The benefit cap and two-child limit must both be ended,
  • The Work-Related Activity component of ESA (and Universal Credit equivalent) must be re-introduced,
  • Universal Credit must have a disability element added,
  • To restore the losses sustained during the four-year benefit rate freeze, benefits must be uprated by the Consumer Prices Index + 2% for four years, and the “Local Housing Allowance” should be permanently restored to at least the 30th percentile of local private sector rents.

Without these changes, disability benefits will continue to fail to meet people’s actual cost of living. For those who are forced to rely on this reduced amount for many years, or their whole lives, the result is clear: living precariously, never having enough to cover all your costs, and not having any financial cushion to help you cope with sudden shocks or changes.”

The full DBC Briefing to MPs is available from disabilityrightsuk.org

Details of how to find your MP and a template letter to use to write to your MP are also available from disabilityrightsuk.org.

Note:

A January 2021 DBC survey found that:

  • 82% of disabled claimants have had to spend more money than they normally would during the pandemic;
  • This is most commonly due to greater food shopping and utility bills, as over half (54% and 53%) of disabled claimants said these costs had increased significantly;
  • As a result of these increased costs, two thirds (67%) of disabled claimants have had to go without essential items at some point during the pandemic; and
  • 44% of disabled claimants are reporting being unable to meet financial commitments such as rent and household bills.