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Disabled people make up nearly half of the most deprived working-age adults in the country

07 July 2022

Disabled people make up nearly half of the most deprived working-age adults in the country

Important new research examining the living standards and health of working-age disabled people and disability benefit claimants in the UK has been published by the Institute of Financial Studies (IFS).

Some of its key findings are:

  • People on disability benefits have much higher rates of relative income poverty than working-age adults in general (29% versus 20% in 2019-20). However, this measure of poverty does not take into account the fact that those on disability benefits likely have higher costs of living due to disability. So that this gap understates the true difference in the rate of low living standards
  • Disability is strongly related to material deprivation. Close to half (44%) of those in the most deprived tenth of the population are disabled, compared with 18% among the whole working-age population.

The IFS also highlights that there are around a million people who are disabled and in the most materially deprived tenth of the population but not receiving disability benefits.

Out of the most deprived 10% of the working-age population, almost a third (31%) are disabled but not in receipt of a disability benefit.

The IFS said: “This could be down to ineligibility (perhaps because their condition is not severe enough to entitle them) or to eligible people not claiming the benefit (perhaps because they do not know they are eligible or find the assessment process too complex or unappealing).

“It may also relate to wait times: there is now on average a 20-week wait between applying for and receiving disability benefits. Average wait times peaked at 26 weeks after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the delay was 20 weeks even in February 2020 before the pandemic, and had been on the rise for a couple of years before that.” 

Commenting on the IFS report, Peter Matejic, Deputy Director of Evidence and Impact at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: "Most people would be shocked to learn people living with serious health conditions are waiting on average five months for life-changing financial support, with half facing longer wait times than this.

"There is clear evidence disabled people face a higher cost of living. Delays this long are likely to have led many to go without essentials like food or basic hygiene in the cost-of-living crisis.

"The majority of the most deprived disabled people are not on disability benefits. Some of this will be due to ineligibility for support or choosing not to apply, but it is also likely that having to wait almost half a year for payments to start will lead to frustrated claimants giving up and not getting the cash they are entitled to. 

"A just, compassionate society would not have people living with a disability being more likely to be in poverty than people who aren’t disabled. Yet, nearly half of everyone in poverty is either disabled or lives with a disabled person. This shows that the benefits system must fundamentally change, so it properly supports the millions of disabled people in this country."

DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser Ken Butler said: "This shocking IFS report lays bare the sheer scale of material deprivation among disabled people.

"What’s needed is new non-means-tested benefit to replace PIP, to cover the extra costs of disabled people, based on the social model of disability of the type envisaged by the Commission on Social Security - led by experts by experience."

The IFS report, Living standards of working-age disability benefits recipients in the UK, is available from ifs.org.uk.

See also out related news story PIP replacement part of new user-led plan to transform the social security system.