HC 576 Progress towards the implementation of Universal Credit
Written evidence submitted by Inclusion London
Inclusion London is a London-wide organisation which promotes equality for London’s Deaf and disabled people and provides capacity-building support for Deaf and disabled people’s organisations in London.
· There are approximately 1.4 million deaf and disabled people in London 
· Analysis of the Family Resources Survey (2008-09) shows that approximately four out of ten households in London have disabled adults living in them.
· Barriers to disabled people’s education and employment lead to poverty. The poverty rate for disabled people is around double than that for non- disabled people. 
· Deaf and disabled people face extra costs due to their impairments that adds approximately an extra 25% to expenditure compared to non-disabled people. 
· Deaf and disabled people experience significantly poorer health and poorer treatment from health services, with people with learning difficulties and people with Mental Health issues likely to die 10 years earlier, not as result of their impairment or condition but as a result of the barriers and discrimination operating within the NHS. 
v Summary of Inclusion London’s recommendations and main points
Inclusion London recommends that:
· Contribution-related Employment and Support Allowance (cESA) is not limited to 365 days, but a reasonable adjustment is made and the limit is extended to two years for disabled people.
· Disabled people are not penalised by a loss of benefit if they are unable to take part in a work placement because of exhaustion, pain or other difficulties caused by their impairment.
· That a broader means of applying for Universal Credit (UC) is offered to disabled people.
· The officer that provides assistance with UC applications is knowledgeable about different impairments.
· That sufficient Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) staff are employed to cope with the number of inquiries.
· The accumulative financial impact of UC on disabled people is monitored.
· Government monitors whether UC has an adverse impact on disabled people’s:
o ability to live independently
o inclusion in the community
o choice of place of residence, (i.e. are obliged to live in a residential home).
o standard of living.
· The financial impact of all welfare benefit reforms and austerity measures on disabled people is monitored.
· Whether disabled people’s human rights under article 19 and article 28 have been contravened due to welfare benefit reforms and local and national austerity measures is also monitored.
Inclusion London’s main points
Inclusion London is concerned that:
· Due to changes in eligibility there many disabled people who will financially worse off under Universal Credit (UC), such as lone parents with a disabled child, resulting in more poverty amongst disabled people.
· Limits on Housing Benefit payments and the number of bedroom will cause isolation and loss of independence of disabled people, particularly those living in London.
· The UC computer system will not be accessible to all disabled people.
· DWP will not provide sufficient staff to give one to one support with applications and payments or other queries resulting from the computer system and the transition to monthly payments
· Localisation of Council Tax Benefit is likely to result in Local Authorities (LAs) making a smaller contribution so disabled people will be worse off.
v Inclusion London’s response to the areas of particular in to the Commons Select Committee:
1. The proposed arrangements for claims and payments and the provision of support and advice for claimants
Re: the predominantly online, self-service claims process; arrangements for providing telephone and face-to-face support and independent advice for claimants who need it:
1.1 Many disabled people are on low incomes so cannot afford a computer, especially blind and partially sighted people who have to bear the additional expense of audio software. Other disabled may not be able to access a computer because of physical impairments, learning difficulties or mental health issues. We recommend that the government makes a reasonable adjustment and provide a broader means of access to make applications for Universal Credit for disabled people.
1.12 The DWP has stated that for those that do not own a computer, applications can be made on a computer at a high street outlet or by telephone. However, telephones are not accessible to many disabled people including people with learning difficulties, people with speech or hearing impairments. High street outlets may not be accessible for those with mobility difficulties.
1.13 The DWP has also said there will be the possibility of ‘face to face’ support to fill in applications, which could be welcomed if the information and interview is accessible (e.g. information is provided in Braille when appropriate, or British Sign Language interpreters are provided if needed). Also the person providing the support will need sufficient training and knowledge of different impairments and to provide the assistance in a supportive manner. Many disabled people will be wary of requesting this support believing the officer will be biased against the claimant because of the government’s intention to cut benefit costs.
1.14 It is essential that enough staff are available to provide the one to one support needed, bearing in mind that many Deaf and disabled people’s local organisations are closing services due to funding difficulties, so this type of support may not be available from the voluntary sector.
1.2 Monthly payments
1.21 Some disabled people such as those with mental health conditions, particularly those who have been homeless, or people with learning difficulties will need transitional support with budgeting on a monthly rather than weekly basis. If the DWP does not provide this support on a one to one basis we are concerned that it will not be available when needed, as not everyone has family, friends and neighbours to call on and local organisations of Deaf and disabled people and other independent advice agencies and community groups are closing or shutting down services, due to funding cuts by local authorities (LAs).
2. Progress with developing the necessary IT systems to administer Universal Credit, including the real-time information (RTI) system for PAYE taxation being developed by HM Revenue & Customs.
2.1 Many of the government’s large computer projects have not worked well, for instance the NHS patient records system. If this is the case with the complex computer system needed for UC we are concerned that claimants will suffer, such as difficulties with recording the information accurately or delays in payments.
2.12 Behind each claim there is a set of unique circumstances, which can be complex, particularly if the claimant is disabled, while it is hoped that the computer system will be sophisticated enough to cope with this level of complexity, there is a possibility that it will fail, especially as it is a new system. We are concerned the DWP employs enough staff to provide support with inquiries should this failing occur. While non-disabled people may find it difficult to withstand the frustration of coping with a bureaucratic system that does not work well, for disabled people who may be in pain or have mental health issues, learning difficulties or communication support needs, delays or difficulties with their welfare benefits will cause a great deal of additional stress.
3. The proposed arrangements for the "claimant commitment", sanctions and hardship payments.
3.1 The time limit on the contribution-related Employment and Support Allowance (cESA) to 365 days is being imposed at a time of increasing unemployment and recession. Many disabled people wish to work but face multiple barriers to doing so, such as employer prejudice, inaccessible buildings and public transport, as well as impairment issues all of which can prevent employment. Government’s own estimates indicate that 94% of people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) on cESA will continue to need support for longer than 12 months.  It is overly punitive to penalise disabled people in these circumstances and does not recognise the difficulties disabled people face in finding a job.
3.12 Disabled people can require reasonable adjustments by employers and/or support and equipment that can be funded by Access to Work, which can take months to put in place, which could take disabled people over the 365days time limit.
3.13 To acknowledge the difficulties in obtaining employment for disabled people and the time needed to put support and equipment in place we urge the government not to time-limit the contribution-related Employment Support Allowance (cESA) to 365 days but to make a reasonable adjustment and extend the limit to two years for disabled people.
3.2 Tough sanctions are being imposed on Employment and Support Allowance claimants, such as the loss of benefit for 26 weeks to 3 years for those that refuse to ‘to comply with a work preparation requirement’ or refuse to ‘take part in a prescribed type of work placement’. Many disabled people experience pain and exhaustion that increases throughout the day, which may not come to light during, what continues to be a flawed and ‘unfit for purpose’ Work Capability Assessment. Whilst the current WCA is retained we are extremely concerned that many disabled people will be wrongly declared ‘fit for work’ and then be further penalised by a loss of an essential benefit for being unable to take part in a work placement.
3.3 Government must ensure that the demands on ESA claimants are reasonable. There has already has been a public and media outcry at the scheme initiated by the government that required job seekers to work for free for companies making huge profits such as Tesco. Other unreasonable demands could be made, which will not be highlighted by the press and result in the loss of benefits for the ESA claimant.
4. Changes in the income entitlement of disabled people under Universal Credit, including those who may receive less income under Universal Credit than at present.
4.1 Although the government has stated that claimants ‘will not face cash losses in their benefit entitlement,’ Disability Rights UK, Citizens Advice Bureau and The Children’s Society have produced a report, ‘Disability and universal credit’, which indicates that there are those that will lose in financial terms due to UC, (please find a copy of the report attached, it can also be found at: )
Inclusion London is extremely concerned that disabled people’s incomes will be reduced further by the changes in UC. We have highlighted in brief, some of the losses that disabled people will experience, mentioned in the Disability and universal credit report, which we are particularly concerned about below:
· Child tax credit/Disability Additions: the benefit will drop from £57 a week under Child tax credit, to £28 under Disability Additions, effecting about 100,000 disabled children.
· Approximately £58 a week will be lost by about 25,000 lone parents as a result of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) being abolished. 230,000 people receive SDP, but some may receive an increase in Employment Support Allowance.
· At least £33 will be lost by lone parents once the earnings limit has been passed for those that have a child on a low rate of care and a high rate mobility of DLA/PIP, because they will not be entitled to carer addition, which requires the person that you care for to be on middle or higher rate of the care component.
· Childcare costs: New system will only pay 70%, previous 95% of costs were paid.
· 116,000 families  will no longer receive the disability element of working tax credit, which is payable to those who are working at least 16 hours each week, because there will be no extra financial help within UC for anyone found ‘fit for work’ under the ESA work capability assessment.
· Working Tax Credit: WTC will not be available under UC apart from those who qualify as ‘not fit for work’.
· Benefit payments will not be up-rated with inflation, so in practice the value of payments will fall each time prices rise.
· Pension credit: Pensioners with a working age partner will not be eligible for pension credit, so could lose about £100 a week.
The government has said that claimants will not face cash losses when transferred onto UC, but the cumulative impact of the cuts mentioned above amount to another huge cut to disabled people’s income. Disabled people are already experiencing cuts due to local austerity measures and many will have DLA/PIP cut as well, due to a 20% budgetary cut imposed when Disability Living Allowance is abolished and is replaced by Personal Independence Payment. Inclusion London is seriously concerned that more disabled people will fall into poverty as a result.
5. The impact of the changes on local authorities, including budgets, staff and support for claimants. The changes include those to Housing Benefit; the introduction of the benefit cap; and localisation of council tax support.
5.1 We are concerned that when C ouncil Tax support is localised L As will make a smaller contribution towards Council Tax payments because LA ’s budgets are over stretched . As a result disabled people will experience a dditional financial burde n at a time when other benefits have been cut.
5.2 We are concerned that the limits on of housing benefit payments , (such as the limit of £290 for a 2 bedroom property ), will result in disabled people having to move out of accommodation , particularly if living in expensive areas of London. While a move of house is stressful for all, for disabled people who can depend on the support of local relatives, friends or neighbours for assistance , a move to another area can result is the loss of crucial assistance that aids independence. The re-assessment for social care assistance in the new area, with no guarantee of maintaining levels of social care support, is another significant and additional stress .
5.2 1 Visually impaired people often receive training from sensory impairment team staff to learn the route to local bus stops or tube stations, to a place of employment, GP surgery, local shops and community centres etc. If disabled people are f orced to move to cheaper accommodation the likely result will be additional costs to LA’s , such as the need for new orientation training to prevent visually impaired people becoming isolated and cut off from the community .
5.3 Bedroom cap: Government must make sure that the cap on the number of bedrooms does not impact on disabled adults and children that need an additional bedroom for an overnight personal assistant carer, or for any other need s because of their disability. Separate bedrooms may be needed for siblings because of the disruption caused by night time care given to disabled children.
5.41 The restriction in bedrooms will also cut support and social contact with older friends and family who wish to stay overnight, as they may not be able to withstand the rigors of ‘ dossing down ’ on a sofa in the sitting room, which will be necessary if a spare bedroom is not available. Difficulties are also caused when numbers of relatives or friends wish to stay, say at Christmas or for a celebration. D isabled people often cannot stay with friends and relatives, because the ir relative’s accommodation is not wheelchair accessible or because the public transport needed for the journey is inaccessible, or travel is restricted because of pain and exhaustion . Social contact is important, w hile the bedroom cap may make sense to th e government in financial terms , it could increase the isolation of disabled people and have a serious detrimental impact on longer term health and well-being with resultant higher health and social care costs ‘further down the line’. It will also be socially divisive with those with privately owned homes having the facilities to invite friends and family to stay, while those in social housing do not.
5.5 The cumulative impact of the government’s welfare reforms and spending cuts on disabled people has not been assessed. Disabled people are facing cuts in social care and an increasing possibility they may be forced to live in residential care due to restrictions on LA’s budgets. Those with the highest needs who receive funding from the Independent Living Fund (ILF) are very concerned that the proposal to transfer responsibility for the ILF to LA’s from April 2015 is being made by the government without a commitment to transfer or ring-fence the current funding. There are also cuts in support to Deaf and disabled peoples organisations and public community based services more generally, all of which disabled people disproportionately rely on. These areas of cuts coupled with the cuts in DLA/PIP and the cuts resulting from UC, including the cuts and changes in Housing benefit, will result in further isolation and poverty for disabled people and a huge loss of independence.
It is a matter of urgency that a cumulative impact assessment is carried out.
6. The level of the earnings disregards.
7. Eligibility for and operation of passported benefits.
7.1 While passporting of benefits avoids multiple assessments which is welcome, if a disabled person is no longer eligible under the new conditions introduced by the recent welfare benefit reforms, disabled people are likely to lose several welfare benefits at one time, which will be very difficult to cope with.
7.2 As a result of welfare reforms or new restrictions on the budgets some disabled people will not be eligible for welfare benefits such as Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payment or UC. As well as the loss of welfare benefits various concessions and benefits will be lost as well, such as the freedom pass which gives free travel in London for disabled people, loss of free directory inquiries for visually impairment people, reduced fees at leisure centres or cultural venues. The cumulative financial impact will be much greater than purely the loss of the welfare benefits mention under 4.1 and 5.5.
8. Impact monitoring: what the DWP’s priorities should be for monitoring the impact of the transition to Universal Credit.
Inclusion London strongly recommends that the following are monitored:
· The cumulative financial impact of UC on disabled people.
· Whether UC has resulting in disabled people experiencing a loss or reduction in their:
o involvement in the community
o choice of place of residence, so they are obliged to live in a residential home.
o standard of living due to Universal Credit.
· The cumulative impact of the loss of all welfare benefits and local and national austerity measures on the lives of disabled people should also be monitored by the government
· Whether disabled people’s human rights under article 19 and article 28 have been contravened due to all welfare benefit reforms and local and national austerity measures should also be monitored.
17 August 2012
 Parckar, G, Disability Poverty in the UK , Leonard Cheshire Disability, 2008
 Equal Treatment: Closing the gap. DRC 2008
 Parliamentary Question 55206, 16 th MAY 2011