Welfare Reform and Work Bill Committee

Written evidence submitted by ENABLE Scotland (WRW 65)

About ENABLE:

ENABLE Scotland is the largest voluntary organisation in Scotland of and for children and adults who have learning disabilities and their families. We have a strong voluntary network with around 5000 members in 44 local branches and via individual membership. Around a third of our members have a learning disability.

ENABLE Scotland campaigns to improve the lives of people who have learning disabilities and their families and carers. ENABLE Scotland provides social care services to more than 2,000 people across Scotland who have learning disabilities or mental health problems.

ENABLE Scotland is supportive of the written evidence submitted by the Disability Benefits Consortium (WRW 04) and our sister organisation, MENCAP UK, (WRW 17), and would encourage the Committee to view these submissions.

Summary:

1. ENABLE Scotland is deeply concerned about the impact that the Welfare Reform and Work Bill will have on people with learning disabilities, their carers and families.

2. The Welfare Reform and Work Bill will make significant changes to the UK social security entitlement by affecting Tax Credits, Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance; as well as the benefit cap, the annual up-rating of benefits and support for home owners in receipt of means tested benefits.

3. Although it should be noted that some of the detail will be left to regulations to define, our analysis of the Bill in its current format is that it will have a disproportionately detrimental impact on the people that we support.

4. ENABLE Scotland believe that the Bill is fundamentally flawed as its core function is to reduce benefit entitlement for working age claimants for those both in and out of work with little regard given to the reasons for the support being required.

We have suggested particular amendments which would reduce the detrimental impact on the people with learning disabilities and their families.

Employment and Support Allowance work related activity component (clause 13)

5. The purpose of this section is to amend the Welfare Reform Act 2007 to remove the work related activity component from Employment and Support Allowance.

6. Employment and support allowance currently categorises claimants as either having limited capability for work (unfit to work but able to engage in work related activity) or limited capability for work related activity (these claimants are not asked to undertake any activity in return for their benefit but can choose to opt in).

7. This change is intended to align the first category with Job Seekers Allowance meaning a potential financial loss of £29.05 per week for many disabled people.

8. ENABLE Scotland would highlight to MPs that this will affect significant numbers of people with a learning disability. Employment Support Allowance is the primary income replacement benefit for people with a learning disability of working age.

9. Currently there are 492,180 disabled people within the ESA WRAG. The largest group are those with 'Mental and Behavioural Disorders' (248,040) which include people with a learning disability; the proposed change will therefore have a disproportionate detrimental impact on people with learning disabilities.

10. It is accepted that Disabled people take longer to get back into work. Almost 60 per cent of people on Job Seekers Allowance move off the benefit within 6 months, while almost 60 per cent of people in the WRAG need this support for at least two years. [1] This proposed reduction to align ESA WRAG with JSA will mean many disabled people will have very low incomes long periods of time

11. For a single person with no income other than ESA, this change will represent a 28% cut in their weekly income.

Suggested amendment:

Leave out clause 13.

In order to maintain the work-related activity component of ESA.

Universal Credit Work related activity element (clause 14)

12. The purpose of this section is to amend the Welfare Reform Act 2012 to remove the limited capability for work element from Universal Credit

13. This will reduce the income of claimants by up to £126.11 per month. This will affect claimants both in and out of work.

14. This change will also leave many people with a learning disability facing a higher level of conditionality in return for their benefit and consequently an increased risk of sanctions

Suggested amendment:

Leave out clause 14.

In order to maintain the limited capability for work component of Universal Credit.

Benefits freeze (clause 9)

15. The purpose of this section is to prevent certain social security benefits from rising.

16. Traditionally benefits rise at the start of each new tax year in line with the consumer price index (CPI). Previously the traditionally higher retail price index was used (RPI).

17. The benefits frozen are Child Benefit, elements of Income Support, elements of Housing Benefit, elements of Job Seekers Allowance, elements of Employment and Support Allowance and elements of Universal credit.

18. People with a learning disability tend to rely on benefits; both in and out of work, due to low employment rates [2] , low wages and/or part time work [3] ; and will therefore suffer the cumulative impact of these benefits being reduced.

19. Freezing benefit rates will mean substantial real terms cuts for our members as inflation causes daily expenses to rise.

Suggested amendments:

Leave out clause 9

Alternatively, to protect disabled people in receipt of disability benefits; in line with the Conservative Party Manifesto commitment [1] :

At Clause 9, Page 11, line 33, at end insert new sub-clauses:-

()People who are in receipt of Disability Living Allowance are exempt from the benefits freeze

()People who are in receipt of Personal Independence Payment are exempt from the benefits freeze

()People who are in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance are exempt from the benefits freeze

()People who are in receipt of carers allowance are exempt from the benefits freeze

Changes to Child Tax Credit (clause 11)

20. The purpose of this section is to remove the family element of Tax Credits (currently worth £545 per year) and to limit the child elements (currently worth £2,780 per child, per year) to two children where children are born after April 2017.

21. ENABLE Scotland seeks urgent clarity on whether the Bill or subsequent regulations intends to remove the higher disabled child element (currently worth £1,275) for some or all disabled children.

22. Whilst families may be able to continue to access disability elements for disabled children born after April 2017, they will not be entitled to the other child elements that they would be currently.

Suggested amendments:

Leave out clause 11;

Or, specifically for families with disabled child(ren)

At clause 11, subsection 2(c), substitute "an element which is to be included in the case of a child

or qualifying young person who is disabled or severely disabled." with "elements are to be included in the case of a child or qualifying young person who is disabled or severely disabled".

Changes to child element of Universal Credit (clause 12)

23. The purpose of this section is to amend the Welfare Reform Act 2012 to limit the number of elements for children in a Universal Credit claim to two.

24. The payment of the higher element for the first child is also removed.

25. This change will push many low income families into poverty but will be even more damaging to those that have a child with a disability due to the additional costs associated with raising a disabled child. [4]

26. This provision, as it stands, has the potential to impact on families who apply for Universal Credit due to one or both parents giving up work to care for a disabled child.

Suggested amendment:

Clause 12 2(1A), at the end insert:

The limit on the number of children or qualifying young person for whom an individual element of Universal Credit can be claimed as set out in subsection (1A), shall not apply to households where one or more of the child or qualifying young persons in that household is disabled. This applies where a child or qualifying young person is entitled to any rate of Disability Living Allowance or the Personal Independence Payment.

Universal Credit work related requirements (clause 15)

27. The purpose of this section is to amend the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 and the Welfare Reform Act 2012 to increase the work related requirements on parents

28. These changes will significantly increase the amount of work related actions that parents are expected to undertake and therefore exposes parent to heightened risk of benefits sanctions.

Suggested amendment:

Section 15 (1) insert –

(1)(d) Section 15(1)(1) shall not apply where a child or qualifying young person is in receipt of any rate of Disability Living Allowance or the Personal Independence Payment.

October 2015


[1] UK Parliament, Early day motion 349 - http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2015-16/349

[2] In 2013, only 7.3% of adults who have a learning disability in Scotland were in employment - SCLD, Statistics Release: Learning Disability Statistics Scotland 2013 (eSAY) (http://www.scld.org.uk/sites/default/files/statistics_release_learning_disability_statistics_scotland_2013_0.pdf)

[3] The Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported that disabled people are more likely to be low paid than non-disabled people with the same level of qualifications, and that people in families with a disabled adult are nearly twice as likely to be in poverty as others. - Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2015), Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Scotland 2015.

[1] ‘We will freeze working age benefits for two years from April 2016, with exemptions for disability and pensioner benefits – as at present’. Conservative Party Manifesto 2015, p.28 https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/manifesto2015/ConservativeManifesto2015.pdf

[1]

[4] It has been calculated that it costs 3 times more to raise a disabled child than a non-disabled child due to the extra costs (e.g. aids and adaptations, special treatments, travel to medical appointments, special diets, increased heating costs etc.) - Contact a Family (2012), Counting the Cost: the financial reality for families with disabled children across the UK.

Prepared 16th October 2015