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Disabled People Against Cuts’ Day of Action on 1 March

The budget is on the 3rd and it is pretty certain that the £20 per week uplift paid to those on Universal Credit is to be extended, HOWEVER, there continues to be no uplift to those of us who are disabled and on what are called legacy benefits, i.e. the benefits paid before Universal Credit was introduced. Disabled people who this affects are urged to raise the matter with their MPs in advance of the budget, as a result here is the letter that I have sent to mine:

Derek Thomas MP (by email)                                 1 March 2021 

 Dear Derek 

 Disabled People Against Cuts’ Day of Action on 1 March

I am writing to ask you as my MP to call for the £20 Universal Credit (UC) uplift to be extended to legacy benefits, in addition I consider that it should be backdated to the date that the additional £20 was added to UC. 

 This personally affects me because I receive Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and have been placed in the Support Group following a personal assessment that determined that I am too disabled to be able to work.  I am virtually housebound as I have had my driving licence withdrawn by the DVLA on disability grounds and throughout the Pandemic I have rarely been out.  My last outing was to my GP’s surgery in Marazion last week to receive the Covid vaccine and the return taxi fare for a round trip of 3 miles cost me £15.  I have no option but to shop on-line which has seen the cost of my weekly supermarket shop increase significantly, not least as the delivery charge continues to rise which well exceeds the £20 uplift that we beleaguered and ignored disabled people are seeking; in addition the supermarkets are selective in what items they offer to on-line shoppers which increases the cost of basic items.  Other significant additional costs include heating; due to my low income I receive the £140 annual heating allowance which ordinarily covers the additional cost of heating my one bedroomed bungalow, however this year it will not cover the cost and my monthly electricity payments have already increased from £35 to £48 despite the allowance being applied. 

 It still beggars belief that the Government thought it was right to give the increase to one kind of claimant, but deny it to others, especially when you realise that three-quarters of those 2.2 legacy benefit claimants are disabled people on ESA.  For months ministers and senior officials at the Department for Work and Pensions pretended this happened because there was no easy way of increasing the rates of ESA, Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support or Carer’s Allowance paid into those claimants’ accounts (which is an answer I received from your office when I raised the issue last year), but the Director General let the cat out of the bag at a Resolution Foundation webinar in May 2020 when he revealed Ministers had actually asked if the extra £20 a week could only be paid to those who had made a claim for Universal Credit since the start of the pandemic.  The original comment was, therefore, a blatant lie. 

 Many of those who have spent years if not decades paying their National Insurance while in work (and in my case putting my life on the line for my Country whilst serving in the Armed Forces) would have been shocked to discover those payments entitled them to just £73 a week to live on – a rate that had been frozen since 2016. The Prime Minister and Chancellor would almost certainly have faced a wave of protest. This attempt to create a two-tier welfare state – one part for the newly-unemployed middle class and another for those who have been unable to work for some time because of their disability, ill-health, or caring responsibilities says an awful lot of a Conservative Government.  

 More than 2.2million claimants who have not yet been moved on to UC missed out on the £20 uplift when it was introduced in March 2020. This is despite the fact that many of those claimants are disabled with underlying health conditions and their expenditures have significantly increased as a direct result of the pandemic and the need to shield for almost a year now. 

 UK social security payment levels also represent only a relatively small percentage of the Minimum Income Standard (MIS). This is the amount calculated by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as what is needed for an acceptable standard of living. After the uplift, UC payments are just 43.4% of the MIS.  For those still on legacy benefits, as they have been throughout the pandemic, the amount they continue to receive in benefits represents just 33.9% of the MIS. 

 Many of the more than 2.2 million benefit claimants who have not received the uplift are disabled. Disabled people have been badly hit by increased expenditures as a direct result of the pandemic and the need to shield. Many have been self-isolating for nearly a year now. Higher spending has been caused by, for example, the need to purchase PPE for social care support workers coming in and out of their homes, costs of online food deliveries and increased energy costs. 

 Research carried out by the Disability Benefits Consortium found that: 

1.   The majority (82%) of disabled people surveyed said they had spent more than they normally would – due to greater food shopping and utility bills, as well as having to pay for taxis to attend essential appointments – since the COVID-19 crisis began. 

2.   Two thirds (66%) said they had to go without essentials like food, heating or medication as a result of increased costs since the pandemic started. 

3.   Nearly half (44%) said they had fallen behind on financial commitments like rent, mortgage payments, or household bills. 

In response to this research, the government says that benefits will be increased by 37p per week in April 2021 (which is an insult) and that claimants still on legacy benefits have the option of moving over to Universal Credit.  Contrary to what the Work & Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey says, legacy benefit claimants cannot just claim Universal Credit to get the extra £20 a week. Hundreds of thousands would have lost their disability premiums if they had done so and also become subject to Universal Credit’s problematic digital-only platform and notorious 'conditionality'. Those downsides were exactly the reason Ms Coffey’s predecessors decided to pilot the process of 'managed migration' for existing legacy benefit claimants with transitional protection of their income for most ESA claimants. 

Neither of these points provide a suitable remedy to the situation. 

The benefit increase is designed to reflect higher costs of living due to inflation, not the pandemic. It is also below the level that is realistically needed to cover inflation, being linked to the CPI and representing a mere 0.5% increase while state pensions will rise by 2.5%. 

Many disabled people are financially worse off on Universal Credit which for example removes both Severe and Enhanced Disability Premia and would have more to lose than to gain by moving off legacy benefits. 

There is also the question of how disabled people without access to the internet or support to navigate the benefit system are supposed to be able to make the move over to Universal Credit with the operations of welfare advice and community support organisations so heavily restricted by the pandemic. 

Keeping, extending and backdating the £20 uplift is vitally important to prevent greater poverty, debt and misery amongst the disabled community and to help those able to but currently out of work to find employment.

In addition I would urge you to fight the proposed new tax on on-line shopping which was rumoured in the media a few weeks ago as this would have a serious adverse effect on those of us who have no option but to shop on-line.

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Yours sincerely 

Mike W

I very much doubt whether there will be a positive response but, nonetheless, we have to try!

Comments

  • JonaJona Member Posts: 123

    Hi Mike,

    Great letter I just hope somebody listens

    Hope your ok after your vaccination

    Jona 😊

  • frogmortonfrogmorton Member Posts: 26,345

    Wow Mike!

    How much thought has gone into that! I should think you've covered everything in there I am very impressed.

    Surely your MP has to accept the points you raise so well.

    Hear hear!

    Love

    Toni xxx
  • Mike1Mike1 Member Posts: 1,325

    Thanks Toni, regrettably I am rather pessimistic when it comes to getting a positive response but I suppose stranger things have happened!

  • JewelsJewels Member Posts: 82

    You can but try and the letter is very direct well done

  • Mike1Mike1 Member Posts: 1,325

    In the Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak was silent on the issue of increasing legacy benefits by the same £20 per week that people on Universal Credit will continue to receive.

    The Government clearly acknowledges how important the extra £20 a week is, because they have extended this uplift in Universal Credit by another 6 months. While it’s clear it should be made permanent, it is outrageous that 2 million disabled people on legacy benefits are still without the same financial lifeline.

    The Government continues to make excuses for leaving millions of disabled people behind – ranging from blaming the computer system to the flawed argument that people can simply switch to Universal Credit.

  • Mike1Mike1 Member Posts: 1,325

    Another letter to my MP which is self-explanatory:

    Derek Thomas MP (by email)                                 4 March 2021 

    Dear Derek 

    Further to my letter of 1st March 2021, which I sent to you by email, I felt compelled to write a follow-up as a result of yesterday’s budget.

    In a budget which saw the continuation of support for furloughed workers and the self-employed until the end of September, there were barely any measures to support the poorest in our society, apart from a six month extension on the £20 per week uplift to those on Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit which was not extended to those of us on so-called “legacy” benefits such as Employment Support Allowance despite a Nation-wide campaign by Disability Rights UK which was supported by a number of related organisations and a large segment of the Disabled Community.

    With over two million Disabled people on legacy benefits not receiving the £20 per week uplift and 18% of Disabled people experiencing food insecurity (against 6% of non-disabled people), the budget brought little hope that the Government will level-up society.

    There was no mention of any increase to the social care budget despite the system being chronically under-funded and Disabled people not receiving adequate levels of care and support.

    With the National Disability Strategy soon to be published, it is seriously worrying that the Government didn’t do anything to tackle the big issues facing Disabled people such as poverty, lack of social care and barriers to employment.

    I am somewhat dismayed, if not disgusted, at the apparent lack of compassion shown by this Government to us disabled people.

    Yours sincerely

    Mike Waters

  • Mike1Mike1 Member Posts: 1,325

    Surprise, surprise (or not) I have not received a response from my MP to the letter that I sent him 2 weeks ago and which is reproduced above, other than an automated reply in which he stated that he would “prioritise constituents who raise an issue or concern that requires intervention or advice” so presumably the inequality of disabled people does not rate high enough in his estimation.

    In last week’s Budget the Chancellor announced that: “To support low-income households, the universal credit uplift of £20 a week will continue for a further six months, well beyond the end of this national lockdown [and] we’ll provide Working Tax Credit claimants with equivalent support for the next six months.” He will be doing this by giving a one-off £500 payment to those on Working Tax Credits but still no recognition of those of us on other legacy benefits such as ESA who have experienced exactly the same increased costs during the pandemic as everyone else. 

    It is totally indefensible that people who are sick, disabled or carers claiming legacy benefits continue to be excluded from this vital support. 

  • Mike1Mike1 Member Posts: 1,325

    I have received a response from my MP and, surprise, surprise he has totally missed the point. How an increase of 37p per week in my ESA benefit has cost the government a total of £600 million is totally beyond me!!


    Dear Mike,

     

    Thank you very much for your letter setting out so clearly the situation you are in with regard to legacy benefits.

    My feeling is that the Government is committed to ensuring that everyone in the welfare system is treated fairly and has invested over £7 billion extra to do so - in this last year total welfare spending in Great Britain for 2020-21 now stands at an estimated £238 billion, 11.4% of GDP.

    As you mention, claimants on legacy benefits can make a claim for UC if they believe that they will be better off and there are special arrangements for those in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium, who have been able to make a new claim to UC from January 2021. 

    Those on legacy benefits may also have benefitted from other support such as mortgage holidays and the income protection schemes. 

    The increase in Local Housing Allowance rates benefits both Universal Credit claimants and legacy claimants in receipt of housing support. This significant investment cost almost £1 billion and ensures that more than 1 million households will see an increase, on average, of £600 per year. 

    In April 2020, legacy benefits were increased by £600 million, and they will increase by a further £100 million as part of the Government’s annual uprating exercise. 

    Support is also available for legacy claimants migrating across to universal credit. Since July 2020, a two-week run-on of housing benefit, income support and income-related employment and support allowance and income-based jobseeker’s allowance is paid to eligible claimants to provide additional support to move to UC.

    To further support people, the Chancellor has also created a £500 million hardship fund, distributed to local authorities, which will be able to use the fund to directly support vulnerable people in their local area. In total, that is a £1 billion commitment. Good to hear from you Mike.

     

    Kind regards,

    Derek

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