Nearly half of disabled benefits claimants are in poverty, report finds


The government is being urged to deliver a welfare system that lifts disabled people out of poverty.

The Social Market Foundation (SMF), made the recommendation in a new report, which found that 42% of people whose families rely on disability benefits are living in poverty.

Describing the benefits system for disabled people as “broken”, the organisation said the government must use its long-awaited Green Paper and cross-departmental disability strategy to deliver support in a “dignified, fair and respectful manner”.

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It added that reforms could boost UK output by £50 million a year and lead to Exchequer benefits of around £17 billion a year.

Using data provided by the Social Metrics Commission, the ‘Time to think again – disability benefits and support after COVID-19’ report, also found that there are 1.8 million more people in poverty who live in a family that includes a disabled person than there were 15 years ago.

And the number of people on a range of disability benefits is broadly the same or higher, depending on the benefit, than it was two decades ago, despite consistent attempts to reduce caseloads.

The disability employment gap remains above 40 percentage points for many disabled people, including those with a primary mental health condition and those with a learning disability, the report found.

Meanwhile, real-terms costs of disability benefits rose by £16 billion (48%) between 2000/01 and 2018/19, and are forecasted to rise by another £4 billion up to 2024/25.

Matthew Oakley, Senior Researcher at the Social Market Foundation, said: “The benefits system for disabled people is broken. It is simply unacceptable that more than four in ten people (42%) living in families that rely on disability benefits are forced to live in poverty.

“Successive governments have repeatedly failed disabled people, their families and communities for decades. The pandemic has underlined this failure and had a tragic impact on disabled people’s lives. Now is the time to think again.

“Not only is failing policy damaging the lives of disabled people – it also means that the UK is missing out on everything that disabled people can bring to the economy and society.

“Reforms have wasted billions of pounds of taxpayer money and failure to support more disabled people to fulfil their working ambitions has deprived the economy of as much as £50 billion of output every year.

“The Government needs to use its long-awaited Green Paper and cross-departmental disability strategy to commit to change.”

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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