Welfare Reform and Work Bill Committee

Written evidence submitted by Inclusion London (WRW 38)

Introduction

1. Inclusion London

Inclusion London is a London-wide user-led 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.

2. Disabled People

There are:

· Approximately 12.2 million disabled adults and children in the UK [1]

· approximately 1.4 million Deaf and disabled people living in London [2]

· just under 1.3 million disabled people aged 16 to 64 years are resident in the London [3] .

Deaf and Disabled people’s future

3. Deaf and Disabled people wish to participate in the community, in education, in employ ment and in public life , have a family and a social and cultural life etc. For Deaf and Disabled people this is ‘ independent living and ‘ full inclusion and participation in the community’. [4] Dis abled people have right to independent living under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) The state has a responsibility to ‘… take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate’ this.

4. Article 28 of UNCRPD states that Disabled people have right to

an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions . [5]

We would like to see all Deaf and Disabled people lifted out of poverty and welfare benefit system that ensures at a minimum ‘an adequate standard of living’.

5. Inclusion London believe s the UNCRDP should be placed in domestic law to increase the is equality of opportunity in education, employment and the other areas set out in the UNCRDP and help e nsure that Deaf and Disabled people’s independent living becomes a reality .

Context of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Poverty

6. The measures contained in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill (the Bill) are being brought in at a time when many Deaf and Disabled people already live in poverty, as government figures for 2013/14 reveal:

· ‘for those living in families where at least one member is disabled, show 3.7 million individuals in relative low income, whilst there were 4.1 million under the absolute low income measure’, before housing costs (BHC). [6]

· Working-age adults are much more likely to live in relative low income if their family contains a Disabled person , than families with do not contain a Disabled person (32% and 18% respectively After Housing Costs).

Impact of public sector spending cuts

 

7. Disabled people have already been disproportionally impacted by welfare reform and tax cuts, as shown by The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report, which says:

"The impacts of tax and welfare reforms are more negative for families containing at least one disabled person, particularly a disabled child, and that these negative impacts are particularly strong for low income families". [1]

[2] [3]

Further welfare benefit reforms

10. While the New Living Wage (NLW) is welcome it does not offset the impact of the changes to welfare benefits and tax credits set out in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, especially regarding those on low incomes as research shows:

‘The new NLW offers such little compensation because the boost to gross wages is smaller than the announced fiscal tightening ……. [4]

· ‘The average losses from tax and benefit changes in deciles 2, 3 and 4 of the household income distribution are £1,340, £980 and £690 per year, respectively. These same groups are estimated to gain £90, £120 and £160 from the new NLW (again on a "better case" scenario)’. [5]

Short term gains

11. We are concerned that while the government may make short term financial gains by the reforms to benefits and tax credits contained in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, but there will be a long term serious impact on Deaf and Disabled people’s independent living, mental health and wellbeing, that will prove very costly in terms of the impact on Deaf and Disabled people lives but will also have a cost implication because of the increased in demand on health and care services.

Summary of comments on Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Employment and apprenticeships

12. Inclusion London welcomes the government’s intention to increase employment and the initiative to create more apprenticeships, but the progress of these aims needs to be monitored in relationship to Deaf and Disabled people.

Welfare reform

13. Inclusion London believes that Deaf and Disabled people and all those on low incomes have already been disproportionally affected by the measures in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 as the evidence above shows. Therefore we oppose the changes to welfare benefits proposed in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill mentioned below, because yet again those on low incomes and Deaf and Disabled people are going to bear the brunt of these reforms.

14. We strongly oppose the changes in the amount of benefit paid to those receiving Employment Support Allowance (ESA) in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). We are very concerned about the impact on Deaf and Disabled people of the change in the benefit cap, and freeze on some benefits for four years and the changes to Tax Credits and Universal Credit. Therefore we have recommended a number of amendments to the Bill, to help protect Deaf and Disabled people from the impact. The amendments are listed below.

15. Recommended amendments:

Clause 1: The government reports on progress on halving the employment gap between Deaf and Disabled people and non-disabled people. The report captures good practice and shares effective models of into work support.

Clause 2: The government reports on the number of apprenticeships taken up by Deaf and Disabled people. The report should capture and share good practice in supporting Deaf and Disabled people into apprenticeships.

Clause 7: - Households containing Deaf and Disabled people, (as stated under Article 1 of the UNCRDP) are exempt from the benefit cap.

Clause 8: The impact of the benefit cap on Deaf and Disabled people and their families should be reported to parliament.

Clause 9: Households containing Deaf and Disabled people, (as stated under Article 1 of the UNCRDP), are exempt from the four year freeze on social security benefits.

Clause 9: The impact of the freeze of benefits on Deaf and Disabled people and their families should be reported to parliament.

Clause 10: Deaf and Disabled people, (as stated under Article 1 of the UNCRDP) are exempt from the four year freeze on tax credits.

Clause 11 and 12: Households containing Deaf and Disabled children are exempt from changes to child tax credit and changes to the child element of universal credit.

Clause 13 is removed.

16. Below Inclusion London comments on the contents of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill below and explains why we have recommended the amendments above.

Reports

Clause 1 Full employment: reporting obligation

17. We welcome the government’s intention to increase employment and half the employment gap between Deaf and Disabled people and non-disabled people. We also welcome the government’s acknowledgement that the gap isn’t due to a ‘lack of aspiration’ on the part of Deaf and Disabled people, but due to barriers. [6] Deaf and Disabled people’s organisations have developed a model of support that is effective in supporting Deaf and Disabled people into employment, which involves

ü Effective engagement with local employers.

ü A personalised approach which looks holistically at Deaf and Disabled people’s needs.

ü Specialist employment coaching with intensive long term support, including inwork support when appropriate.

18. Government funding needs to be available for the intensive, long-term support needed by Deaf and Disabled people provided by small, local user led organisations Deaf and Disabled people’s organisations, which have the necessary expertise to provide the support. We recommend that the government report captures good practice and shares models of effective into work support for Deaf and Disabled people.

19. We recommend the following amendment:

Clause 1: The government reports on progress on halving the employment gap between Deaf and Disabled people and non-disabled people. The report captures good practice and shares models of effective into work support.

Clause 2 Apprenticeships reporting obligation

20. We welcome the government’s initiative to provide more apprenticeships. However, the schemes need to be inclusive and accessible so they can be available to all interested Deaf and Disabled people. We would welcome reporting that captures and shares good practice in supporting Deaf and Disabled people into apprenticeships

21. We recommend the following amendment:

Clause 2 - Government reports on the number of apprenticeships taken up by Deaf and Disabled people. The report captures and shares good practice in supporting Deaf and Disabled people into apprenticeships.

Welfare Benefits

22. We are very concerned that Deaf and Disabled people and people on low incomes are bearing a disproportional impact of public spending cuts. We believe Deaf and Disabled people and those on low incomes should not be increasingly burdened with the government’s ambition to cut the deficit. We oppose the changes to Welfare Benefits in the Bill mentioned below, but wish to ensure that at a very minimum Deaf and Disabled people are protected from them. Therefore we recommend the amendments below:

Clause 7 Benefit cap

2 3 . The Bill lowers the benefit cap so the amount of welfare benefits a household can be entitled to is to be capped at £23,000 in London and £20,000 outside of London.

24. We are concerned that there are many Deaf and Disabled people that are not in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will be affected by the cap. We believe that all Deaf and Disabled people should be protected by the cap not just those on DLA/PIP.

25. Therefore we recommend the following amendment:

Clause 7 - Households containing Deaf and Disabled people (as stated under Article 1 of the UNCRDP) are exempt from the benefit cap.

Clause 8 Review of benefit cap

26. The impact assessment did not give any consideration to the impact on the Deaf and Disabled people that are affected by the benefit cap. Therefore we recommend the following amendment

Clause 8: The impact of the benefit cap on Deaf and Disabled people and their families should be reported to parliament.

Clause 9 Freeze of certain social security benefits for four tax years

27. We are concerned that many Deaf and Disabled people do not claim DLA/PIP and therefore will be subject to four year freeze on Jobseekers Allowance and Housing Benefit starting from 2016/17.

28. The support component element of ESA is exempt from the freeze (about £35 per week) but the basic rate of the ESA payment (£73.10) will not be exempt, so all ESA claimants even those in the support group, (who have been assessed as not being able to undertake work or work-related activities) will feel the impact of this freeze.

29. As mentioned above many Disabled people already live in poverty, therefore we believe all Deaf and Disabled people should be exempt from the freeze on benefits.

30. Therefore we recommend the following amendment:

Clause 9: Households containing Deaf and Disabled people, (as stated under Article 1 of the UNCRDP) are exempt from the freeze on social security benefits.

31. The impact assessment did not give any consideration to the impact on the Deaf and Disabled people that are affected by the benefit freeze. Therefore we suggest the following amendment:

Clause 9: The impact of the freeze of benefits on Deaf and Disabled people and their families should be reported to parliament.

Clause 10 Freeze of certain Tax Credit amounts for four tax years

32. Many Deaf and Disabled people are already living in poverty and are already struggling to cope with the impact of the measures in the Welfare Reform Act 2012.

33. Therefore we recommend the following amendment:

Clause 10 Deaf and Disabled people, (as stated under Article 1 of the UNCRDP) are exempt from the four year freeze on tax credits

Clause 11 Changes to child tax credit and Clause 12: Changes to child element of universal credit

34. We are also concerned about the impact on families of Deaf and Disabled children of the proposal to limit Child Tax Credit to two children. Many families with Deaf and Disabled children are already struggling to cope with basic fuel, food and rental bills.

35. Therefore we recommend the following amendment:

Clause 11 and 12: Households containing Deaf and Disabled children are exempt from changes to child tax credit and changes to the child element of universal credit

Clause 13 Employment and support allowance: work-related activity component

36. The Chancellor in his speech July 2015 budget speech that,

"First, welfare system should always support the elderly, the vulnerable and disabled people " . [7] Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit specifically for Deaf and Disabled people, yet nearly £30 a week will be cut from ESA for new claimants in Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). ESA will be reduced from £102.15 a week to £73.10, from April 2017, bringing the rate of benefit down to the level of Jobseeker’s Allowance. We strongly oppose this measure for the following reasons:

37. The Government hopes the reduction in ESA will provide an incentive to Disabled people to take steps to find work. However, Disabled people not been placed in the WRAG because of a lack motivation or a lack of a positive attitude, but because their impairment or health condition prevents them from working, incentives cannot change this.

38. The government has not presented any evidence, which shows that reducing ESA will act as an effective incentive.

39. The Minister for Work and Pensions has recognised that Deaf and Disabled people do not ‘lack the aspiration’ to find work and spoke of addressing employer’s reluctance to employ Disabled people [8] , however, this discrimination is a long term entrenched problem, which will take time to combat. Likewise the Minister spoke of an increase of funding to improve into work support [9] but this funding has not had time to take effect and models of support that are effective need to be implace. It is totally inappropriate to reduce ESA until these and other barriers such as the lack of reasonable adjustments by employers and lack of accessible public transport are effectively addressed, otherwise Deaf and Disabled people are being penalised for their impairments.

40. ESA, unlike Jobseekers Allowance, (JSA) is not intended to be a short term benefit for those that a likely to find work in the near future. Those in the WRAG ‘are not expected to work’ [10] due to their impairment or health condition and may be on ESA for some time. The impact of being on a low income accumulates over time as savings are used up and delayed bills and expenses have to be paid – so it is reasonable that the amount of ESA paid takes this longer move towards employment into consideration. It is vital that ESA for those in the WRAG remains a benefit for Deaf and Disabled people that ‘are not expected to work’ [11] and that it is not seen as short term benefit with a reduction in the amount paid.

41. A reduction in the amount of benefit received is likely to act as a disincentive as many Disabled people are already struggling financially and a further loss of income will make it more difficult to cope with basic costs of living, which is likely have an impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing and reduce the ability to focus on becoming work ready.

42. This is relevant because by far the largest impairment group claiming ESA in the WRAG have ‘Mental and Behavioural Disorders’, (approximately 250,000 people) and therefore may be more vulnerable to the stress caused by the extra financial strain, and the additional pressure to move towards employment. [12]

44. Therefore we recommend the following amendment:

Clause 13 is removed.

That concludes Inclusion London’s recommendations concerning the Welfare Benefit and Work Bill.

September 2015


[1] Family Resources survey United Kingdom 2012/13: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/325491/family-resources-survey-statistics-2012-2013.pdf

[2] See All in it together? Report at: https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/disability-in-london/deaf-and-disability-equality-facts/deaf-and-disability-equality-facts/

[3] http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/assessment_gla_deaf_disabled_equality_2013.pdf

[4] http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=279

[5] http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=288

[6] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/437246/households-below-average-income-1994-95-to-2013-14.pdf

[1] http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/publication/research-report-94-cumulative-impact-assessment

[2] http://www.adass.org.uk/Distinctive-valued-personal-why-social-care-matters-infographics/

[3] http://www.adass.org.uk/Distinctive-valued-personal-why-social-care-matters-infographics/

[4] http://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/bns/BN175.pdf

[5] http://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/bns/BN175.pdf

[5]

[5]

[6] http://www.reform.uk/publication/rt-hon-iain-duncan-smith-mp-speech-on-work-health-and-disability/

[6]

[6]

[7] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/chancellor-george-osbornes-summer-budget-2015-speech

[8] http://www.reform.uk/publication/rt-hon-iain-duncan-smith-mp-speech-on-work-health-and-disability/

[9] http://www.reform.uk/publication/rt-hon-iain-duncan-smith-mp-speech-on-work-health-and-disability/

[10] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/319379/esa-wca-outcomes-background-note-mar-14.pdf

[11] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/319379/esa-wca-outcomes-background-note-mar-14.pdf

[12] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/431300/1776-2015-response.pdf

Prepared 18th September 2015