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Benefit changes 'to hit disabled'
An inquiry headed by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has said several 'key' groups will lose out under the Universal Credit
Up to half a million disabled people and their families could be worse off under the new system of Universal Credit once it is fully implemented - with some warning that they might be forced out of their homes as a result of the changes, according to a report.
An inquiry headed by former wheelchair athlete Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has said several "key" groups will lose out under the Universal Credit, which will start to replace much of the benefits and tax credits system from next year.
The study used research showing that once the changes are fully in place, 100,000 disabled children stand to lose up to £28 a week, 230,000 severely disabled people who do not have another adult to help them could receive between £28 and £58 a week less and up to 116,000 disabled people who work could be at risk of losing around £40 a week.
The report said the impact of the cuts in support for disabled children could be "extremely severe" for families currently receiving the mid rate "care component" of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), a payment made where a child can be severely disabled but does not need care overnight.
Of those families affected, one in 10 expressed fears that they could no longer afford their own home, while two thirds said they would have to cut back on food, and more than a half said it would lead them into debt. In some of the most severe cases, some families said the changes to support for disabled children could result in their children having to be placed in full-time residential care.
The report said 83% of those eligible for the severe disability premium (SDP), which will be abolished under the changes, reported that a reduction in benefit levels would mean they would have to cut back on food and 80% said they would have to cut the amount they spent on heating.
The changes start to come into force from October next year and current benefit claimants who move on to Universal Credit will not see an immediate reduction in their payments. But they will have their level of benefit frozen, with no increases to take into account rising prices, campaigners said, and they may see their support cut immediately if their household circumstances change.
The report, Holes in the Safety Net: the impact of universal credit on disabled people and their families, had the backing of The Children's Society, Citizens Advice and Disability Rights UK and drew on research from these bodies.
Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud said "transitional protection" had been put in place to ensure no-one was out of pocket. He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "So existing levels of support will be maintained in a cash sense for families with disabled children or who are disabled themselves. That will be maintained indefinitely on a cash basis."
He said the reform was necessary to sweep away a "tangled mess of add-ons and premiums" to make the system "simple and understandable".