Two thirds of disabled benefit claimants have gone without essentials like food, heating or medication since coronavirus hit, a shock survey says today.
Campaigners slammed the “two-tier welfare state” that handed a £20-a-week rise to Universal Credit but not other benefits.
Legacy benefits including ESA, as well as Carers’ Allowance, are due to rise by just 35p a week in April. Disability campaigners and Carers UK are today calling for both those benefits to rise by £20 a week.
A poll of 1,126 legacy benefit claimants found 66% had gone without essential items over the last 10 months.
The survey from the Disability Benefits Consortium was conducted through the British Psychological Society on January 4-18.
MS sufferer David Allen, 62, from Luton, told the DBC: “I find myself sitting in the dark more than I should so as not to turn the lights on for too long.
“I live on my own so it’s hard not to think your world is closing in around you.”
The report Pandemic Poverty said 82% saw increased costs during Covid-19 – such as for food shopping, utility bills and taxis.
And 44% have fallen behind on rent, mortgage payments or household bills.
Ella Abraham of welfare charity Z2K and the DBC said the “two-tier discriminatory welfare state has pushed a huge number of people into poverty.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting disabled people through every stage of this pandemic and have worked hard to provide uninterrupted access to disability benefits and further financial support – making £1.3 billion available to local authorities to help address pressures on local services including adult social care.
“That’s in addition to wider support includingour £280billion investment to safeguard jobs,boost welfare support and help families through the winter.”
The DWP today unveils 325 new advisors to hold digital surgeries for people who’ve lost jobs in the last three months.
The voluntary workshops under the Job Finding Support service will aim to help 160,000 people look for work in the next year.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said the scheme “will help jobseekers brush up on interview skills and advice, giving them a helping hand to move back into work quickly.”
But Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been warned people face chaos if the £20 Universal Credit uplift ends as planned in April.
Charities yesterday blasted claims UC will be cut by £20 a week and claimants get a £500 or £1,000 one-off sum instead.
Laura Peters of the charity Rethink Mental Illness warned a one-off payment could trigger a relapse for vulnerable addicts.
She told the Commons Work and Pensions Committee: “For some people where overspending might be a symptom of their mental illness, for example people with bipolar disorder, there’s a real risk they could receive that lump sum at a point where they would be at risk of spending it in ways that it’s not sensible.
“Often mental health problems can coexist with substance abuse problems.
“There’s a real risk that a lump sum could actually even cause somebody to relapse into a substance abuse problem.
“There are very particular risks for people with mental ill health in terms of a lump sum.”
Peter Tutton of debt charity StepChange said a one-off sum could get “swallowed up” by people’s debts by pushing them over relief thresholds.
Minesh Patel of Citizens Advice added removing the £20-a-week uplift “would put benefit levels to their lowest since the early 90s – just while we’re in a recession”.
Government sources say no decision has been made on UC and it may only be announced in the March 3 Budget.