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Covid-19: Disabled People and Legacy Benefits

Volume 684: debated on Wednesday 25 November 2020

What steps she is taking to ensure the adequacy of support for disabled people on legacy benefits during the covid-19 outbreak. (909389)

The Government are committed to supporting disabled people affected by the covid-19 outbreak. We are ensuring that disabled people continue to have access to disability benefits and other financial support during it.

I wonder whether the Minister is aware that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that nearly half of people in poverty in the UK are either themselves disabled or live in a household with someone who is. As he says, covid has exacerbated that hardship, and the inequalities disabled people face will only be exacerbated by the fact that those who are on not on universal credit will not have benefited from the uplift of £20 that was applied to UC. So has he, or anyone else in the Government, carried out an equalities impact assessment on the decision not to extend the £20 uplift to legacy benefits?

Those on legacy benefits will have benefited from the 1.7% uplift as part of the annual upratings. Depending on individual circumstances, they may have also benefited from the changes to the local housing allowance; the increases in discretionary housing support; the various employment support schemes; and the additional discretionary support administered via local authorities. This year alone we anticipate expenditure on disability benefits to increase by nearly 5%.

The reason my Scottish National party colleagues and I, and others, have repeatedly called for this £20 uplift is that covid-19 costs people with disabilities significantly more money than it does most others, yet they have been completely ignored. Last week, a petition from the Disability Benefits Consortium calling for the £20 uplift, which had 119,000 signatures, was handed in to the Chancellor. As the Minister who represents the interests of people with disabilities, did he ask the Chancellor to do this in today’s spending review? If not, what did he ask for?

As I have already set out, we anticipate spending on disability benefits to increase by 4.6%; we are talking about close to £20 billion and that is targeted support for those who most need it.