Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak refused to accept pleas from people with disabilities to extend his Universal Credit uplift to legacy benefits.
His reason was made clear by Martin Lewis on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday (March 7), when he said the Chancellor had told him, “this is targeted at working people, helping working people through the pandemic”.
The implication is clear: people with disabilities who don’t work simply don’t deserve any help to overcome the extra costs piled onto them by the Tory government’s response to Covid-19.
Members of campaign group DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) had tried to apprise Sunak of the costs they face on March 1 – two days before his Budget speech – when they sent nearly 200 envelopes containing testimonies and concerns about the government’s failure to extend the uplift.
Also brought to the Treasury’s door was a wheelchair with items attached that represented essential items that people with disabilities were having to go without.
These included a blanket (heating); an incontinence pad (bathing, laundry and medicines); a face mask (PPE); an empty packet of cuppa soup (nutritious food) and an empty purse (enough money to live on).
All these things – the wheelchair with its attached items and the testimonies – were turned away. Neither Sunak nor anybody else at the Treasury could be bothered to pay attention to the plight of these people.
Similar deliveries were also rejected by 10 Downing Street and the Department for Work and Pensions, although the DWP did accept a letter addressed to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey, with a copy of a document published today by DPAC collating testimonies from benefit claimants and key findings from recent reports evidencing the need to retain and extend the uplift.
According to DPAC,
Given the disproportionate mortality rates for disabled people from COVID, many have been shielding for close to a full year now. This has driven their costs up considerably.
The Department for Work and Pensions has said there is no need to apply the uplift to legacy claimants because benefits will be increased by 37p per week in April 2021 and because they have the option of moving over to Universal Credit.
Neither of these options help address the situation.
The 37p increase is designed to reflect higher costs of living due to inflation, not the pandemic. It represents a mere 0.5% increase while state pensions will rise by 2.5%. It isn’t enough even to buy a single protective mask.
As the DWP knows, many disabled people are financially worse off on Universal Credit due to the removal of the Disability Premia which have been the subject of judicial review. They would lose out by a move to UC.
There is also the question of how disabled people without access to the internet or support to navigate the benefit system are supposed to move over to UC with the operations of welfare advice and community support organisations so heavily restricted by the pandemic.
Next time someone like Sunak or Boris Johnson turns up on your TV, telling you they are “protecting the most vulnerable”, remember that you know the truth:
This Johnson government is ignoring the most vulnerable people. Johnson doesn’t want to protect them and neither does Sunak. They want the most vulnerable people to die.
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