Government refuses to commit to keeping or extending the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Dr Thérèse Coffey has said today that the temporary £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit – due to end from April 2021 – is separate from the annual review of benefit rates.
The benefits annual review took place on Wednesday, alongside Rishi Sunak’s Spending Review.
DR UK Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said:
“The Disability Benefits Consortium first wrote to the Chancellor about a legacy benefit uplift back in June. It has still heard nothing back from the Exchequer.
“The failure to provide an uplift for two million people shows government’s flagrant disregard for disabled people.
“Yesterday at the APPG on Disability the Disability Minister Justin Tomlinson assured us of the government’s commitment to radical positive change for disabled people. The Chancellor’s silence on calls for an uplift today makes the Minister’s words ring hollow.”
Read more on our website.
DR UK: Spending Review fails disabled people
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, made no commitment to extend the current £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit beyond April 2021 in his Spending Review on Wednesday. Neither did he commit to extend the increase to over two million disabled people on legacy benefits including Employment and Support Allowance. This failure to act leaves millions of disabled people with insufficient money to live on with dignity and choice.
In the same spending statement, the Chancellor continued the government’s approach of treating health and social care differently, despite their equal importance in supporting people who need care. The NHS was provided with an additional £6.3 billion, whilst social care was given £1 billion, with only £300 million in grant form with the rest to be raised locally. Long awaited social care reform proposals are promised for 2021.
Anti-poverty campaigners and those fighting for much needed investment in social care have been left amazed and outraged by the failure to support those in society in most need.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK and Co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance said:
“The Government passed up the opportunity to play fair with social care, instead granting it insufficient extra money to safeguard the current level of services through next year. Against the context of the pandemic, which is both driving up the level of need, and weakening the finances of providers, this is a decidedly reckless approach. Local authorities are once again being asked to square an impossible circle and this ungenerous settlement does very little to help the NHS either. However, it’s older and disabled people, and their families and carers, who will as ever pay the biggest price, with more likely to have to manage without the support they need. This is a bitter pill to swallow, especially after everything social care has been through this year.”
Mencap said: “The Government seems to be waiting for the roof to fall in before repairing the leak. We needed emergency funding now and pinned our hopes on the Chancellor’s statement. A bold plan for social care reform alongside long-term funding for a sustainable future is critical – continuing to kick the can down the road just isn’t good enough.”
Fazilet Hadi, Disability Rights UK’s Head of Policy said: “The Chancellor and the government have shown no compassion for those who require social care and those living in poverty. The continued distinction made between health and social care is breathtaking. Why is supporting someone in hospital viewed as more important than supporting someone in their own home, supported living or a residential setting? How can it possibly be justified to withhold the £20 per week uplift from disabled people on legacy benefits? This lack of empathy for the lives of millions of disabled people doesn’t bode well for the direction or content of the government’s soon to be published National Disability Strategy.”
New tiers guidance issued
The government has released information about what will happen across the country after lockdown ends. From 2 December, the UK’s counties and cities will be divided up into tiers, with different rules about what people can do, where they can go, and what businesses can open.
New letters are expected to be sent out to those currently on the clinically extremely vulnerable list.
Find out more on the government website.
New film by Sia sparks ‘cripping up’ backlash
Internationally acclaimed singer Sia has been universally criticised for employing a neurotypical actress to portray the autistic lead character in her new film, Music, after releasing a one minute trailer announcing the film.
Due out in February, the film stars Maddie Ziegler, Sia’s long-time collaborator, as Music, a non-verbal autistic person.
Thousands of people have pitched in on the star’s twitter account to accuse her of ableism and allowing ‘cripping up’ by casting Ziegler in the lead role.
Sia’s response to the backlash was to post a series of tweets: “Grrrrrrrrrr. F****ity f****. why don’t you watch my film before you judge it? FURY…I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk… as doctors, nurses and singers… My heart has always been in the right place… I had two people on the spectrum advising me at all times… The character is based completely on my neuro-atypical friend. He found it too stressful being non-verbal, and I made this movie with nothing but love for him and his mother.
“…I’ve never referred to music as disabled. Special abilities is what I’ve always said, and casting someone at her level of functioning was cruel, not kind, so I made the executive decision that we would do our best to lovingly represent the community.
“…I actually tried working with a beautiful young girl non verbal on the spectrum and she found it unpleasant and stressful. So that’s why I cast Maddie.”
Critics of the casting include presenter and activist Mik Scarlett, who said: “I wasn’t going to weigh in on this but by posting this tweet it is obvious you’ve missed the point. The film may be enjoyable but the casting is offensive to the community the film is about. Any portrayal is as much about casting as it is story.
“As a disabled person who has worked in the arts since the early 80s I’ve seen similar reasoning for not casting disabled talent given over & over. They weren’t legitimate then, they really aren’t now. Creatives can either lead to an inclusive future or continue exclusion.”
DR UK’s Media and Communications Manager Anna Morell said: “It’s frustrating that despite the voice of disabled people becoming increasingly loud on this issue, decision makers in film making are still refusing to grasp the fact that there is a wealth of disabled talent out there which is not winning the on-screen roles about the issues they are best placed to represent in modern cinema. Hollywood is slowly starting to understand that diversity includes race, but it’s still got a long way to go to show that it understands that diversity and inclusivity also includes hiring disabled people to produce disabled people’s stories.”
Terminally ill people in ‘vicious cycle’ of fuel poverty
The Marie Curie charity has published a new report on the impact of fuel poverty on terminally ill people.
The report shows that terminally ill people may experience a vicious cycle of fuel poverty. Their deteriorating health means they have to spend a lot more to heat their homes sufficiently – which some may struggle to afford due to depleted incomes and the other significant costs associated with their illness – but the consequences of living in a cold home can be severe; leading to new infections, making existing symptoms flare up or become worse, affecting their mental wellbeing and, in the worst cases, even hastening their death.
The report makes a number of recommendations to help terminally ill people out of fuel poverty, including:
- Reform of the Special Rules for Terminal Illness in benefits law and the five-week wait for Universal Credit;
- Automatic access to the Warm Home Discount scheme for terminally ill people and a new vulnerability component in the eligibility criteria for Winter Fuel Payments;
- Universal implementation of the recommendations in NICE guideline NG6 (Excess winter deaths and illness and the health risks associated with cold homes);
- Targeted information and guidance on staying warm and combatting fuel poverty for people who are terminally ill.
Align social security with health and care systems and fully fund advice provision: open letter to Government
An alliance of organisations working across social care, mental health, disability, homelessness and welfare rights has sent an open letter to the Government highlighting its collective view that social security benefits’ policy and delivery
“…must now be explicitly re-aligned with the objectives of our health and care system and become concerned with keeping people well, promoting independence and wellbeing and tackling inequalities.”
Read more on our website.
APPG for Disability
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Disability met this week on Zoom. Along with Lord Hannay; Vicky Foxcroft MP, Shadow Minister for Disabled People; Diane Kingston OBE; Chris Wallace from the United Nations Association UK; Rebecca Hilsenrath, CEO of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP was present to comment on a range of issues. In relation to housing, he said: “I totally agree with Vicky, it’s vital in those new developments we are future proofing housing.”
In a discussion about benefits, Vicky Foxcroft told those present that all sanctions do “is drive people into further poverty”.
Justin Tomlinson commented that post-Covid “a menu of options” would be “a good way forward” for disabled people undergoing assessments for benefits, and that the DWP needed to do “a huge amount of work around severe conditions criteria” when it came to assessing the length of benefit awards. He said: “The idea of PIP is to trigger when to identify when people will need a higher level of support… it is in no-one’s interest to do unnecessary assessments but neither do I want to repeat the mistakes of the DLA.”
Lisa Cameron MP, chair of the APPG on Disability said that it was “really important to minimise the levels of stress for people” undergoing assessments, and Rebecca Hilsenrath said “we would like the government to review how long it takes to get benefits”.
SSAC: accessibility of mobility support for disabled people must be improved
The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has published a new report that concludes that the Motability scheme should be improved in terms of its accessibility to disabled people.
The report explores the current support in Motability coupled with the availability of the DLA and the PIP mobility component.
DR UK was one of the organisations that gave oral evidence to the SSAC.
The SSAC recommends that the DWP should use the forthcoming Green Paper that will look at how the DWP and the benefits system “can best help disabled people” to consider some of the difficulties claimants have using the Motability Scheme.
Read more on our website.
SSAC: have the DWP’s Covid-19 support measures been effective?
The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has published a detailed report reviewing the effectiveness of the temporary social security measures that have been introduced by the DWP during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Its review also explores the degree to which they could be refined further, or improved, as the Government may consider transitioning some of them into a longer-term or permanent approach.
DR UK was one of the organisations that gave evidence to the review.
Read more on our website.