Welfare reform

Physios need to be aware of the impact welfare changes could have on patients with disabilities, says Neil Coyle, head of policy at Disability Alliance

The government has announced a radical platform of change for welfare, including introducing a single benefit (the Universal Credit) for all working age people, and enabling people entering work to keep more of their earnings.

However, other aspects of the reform agenda are troubling and are likely to affect some of the people you see.

Disability Alliance is concerned that the government plans to cut Disability Living Allowance (DLA) expenditure by 20 per cent.

DLA was introduced to help with disabled people’s higher costs of living and disabled people remain twice as likely to live in poverty. The cut will affect more than 365,000 disabled people and risks increasing poverty.

The spending review announced a further harsh change: a time limit of one year for some people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). ESA is only paid to people with significant health problems or impairments who go through a tough Work Capability Assessment.

The time limit will affect people found to have limited capability for work and government estimated savings suggest 400,000 disabled people will lose all out-of-work benefits as a result.

Benefits are interlinked and cuts in one area risk a domino effect on other support.

The cut to ESA means people might not receive disability premiums in tax credits if they find employment. They may also mean disabled people cannot access tailored help to find appropriate work from Jobcentres.

The cuts are perhaps riskiest for people ‘closest to work’ – people developing an impairment while in work or those easiest able to get adaptations which enable them to work.

But the government has also introduced new guidance for Access to Work which will restrict the support available to employers and disabled people to access in-work adaptations.

The government is also cutting half a million jobs from the public sector and this could be matched by similar job losses in the private sector.

Even when UK employment rates peaked in the 1990s, 50 per cent of working age disabled people were unable to find work.

The increased competition from government cuts mean the employment prospects for disabled people are worsened.

There are currently over three million people looking for work but under half a million jobs available.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ estimate that 60 per cent of the disabled people affected by the time limiting of ESA will be in work within a year seems incredible in this context.

See: www.disabilityalliance.org  and the ‘Fit for Work’ Feature

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