Call to extend financial lifeline to disabled people on legacy benefits

The Disability Benefits Consortium is calling for an end to what it calls a ‘discriminatory two tier welfare state’.

The Department for Work and Pensions (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)
The Department for Work and Pensions (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

More than 100,000 people are calling on the Government to stop the “cruel” exclusion of disabled benefits recipients on the old system from extra support during the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of people with a disability or with long-term health conditions have faced “immense hardship” due to the Covid-19 outbreak, said the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a network of more than 100 organisations.

Recipients of Universal Credit (UC) were given an increase of £20 a week at the start of the outbreak to help them meet increased costs.

Those who have not yet been moved over to the new system have not received an uplift, despite having to spend more on safely accessing food, getting to and from medical appointments, and on care during the pandemic.

The DBC’s petition, Don’t Leave Disabled People Behind, has been signed more than 119,000 times and will be handed to Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday.

The consortium is calling for an end to what it calls a “discriminatory two tier welfare state”.

Kevin Whitworth, from the Isle of Lewis – who has brain damage after a fall around a decade ago, has received Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) since 2016.

He said: “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.

She said: “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.”

Ella Abraham, the DBC’s campaigns co-chairwoman, said: “For disabled people and others on legacy benefits, being denied the £20 per week life line that those on Universal Credit have received has meant real hardship. It is unacceptable for the Government to maintain that only those who have had to claim Universal Credit as a result of the pandemic are in financial need.

“The Government must take this opportunity in the upcoming spending review to act now, end this discriminatory two tier welfare state and ensure that the twi million people on legacy benefits receive this vital extra support and are no longer left behind.”

A Government spokesman said: “We are wholly committed to supporting disabled people through the pandemic, boosting welfare support by £9.3 billion to help those most in need, introducing the Covid Winter Support Package for those on low incomes and making £3.7 billion available to local authorities to help address pressures on local services including adult social care.”

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