The government increased universal loan payments by £ 20 at the start of the lockdown, but no changes were made to disabled benefits. More than 100 organizations have organized to demand action from ministers
Nearly 120,000 people have called for the £ 20 emergency increase for universal loan applicants during the Covid-19 pandemic to be extended to those with legacy benefits such as employment and support allowances.
The “Don’t Leave Disabled People Behind” petition was launched by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a network of more than 100 organizations calling on the Chancellor to stop “giving up this financial lifeline to disabled people, single parents and legacy families Deny “benefits when the upcoming full review of spending is announced.
The £ 20 increase was temporarily applied to universal loan and labor tax credit payments in March when the country closed to curb the spread of Covid-19 and is expected to end in April. However, it has not been given to those who are eligible for Labor and Support Allowance, Jobseeker Allowance and Income Support, the main benefits for people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.
“The government recognized that pre-pandemic support was inadequate. However, the same lifeline has been withheld from those who have used the elderly – mostly sick or disabled people and carers, “said Iain Porter, policy and partnerships manager for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in response to the DBC campaign.
“There is no doubt that ministers are facing many challenging decisions. However, it is easy to do. It would be against what we stand for as a society to continue to withhold this support from many people at greatest risk of poverty. “
A government spokesman said: “We are fully committed to helping disabled people through the pandemic to increase welfare by £ 9.3 billion to help those most in need introduce the Covid Winter Support Package for low-income people and £ 3.7 billion to allocate local authorities to address pressure on local services, including adult social care. “
Disabled people were “exposed to an immense emergency,” said the DBC during the pandemic. Often times, they would have to spend more to buy groceries safely while paying more to avoid public transportation going to and from medical appointments.
This was the reality for Lee, 62, in London, who was supported by the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust. She has a serious skin condition and amyloidosis, an autoimmune disease that makes it difficult for her organs to work properly, meaning she is often bedridden and in chronic pain.
I had to cut down on food, support it and sometimes forego the medication I need because I have to pay for it
“They didn’t really take into account how disabled people live,” she told The Big Issue. “I can’t afford supermarket deliveries that cost six or seven pounds each time. But I can’t afford to stock up and have a very small kitchen so I have to buy what I need, which means shopping trips have to be frequent.
“But I don’t feel safe on public transport and I often see people who are not wearing masks. That means I can only take a taxi to and from the supermarket that I can’t afford or rely on expensive, unhealthy, packaged groceries from the corner shops. “
Before the pandemic, she relied on daily support from people she knew who would come to her home to look after her. But she cannot afford to pay her taxi fare and cannot ask her to take public transport as it would put her at risk.
“If there is no money in the pot, I just don’t ask her to come,” she said. “I can spend money I don’t have or without the support I really need.”
Earlier this year, Lee, not her real name, wanted the flu shot but was advised that despite her health, she was not eligible. It meant she had to save up to pay one. At that point, she was told that her local center had run out.
“There’s no room for anything unexpected on this little money. The problems were with or without a pandemic, we need more to make a living from, especially when life is even more difficult, “she said.
“An extra £ 20 would make such a difference. It would mean I could do a big store for the month to save money in the long run and limit how many times I could be exposed to the virus.
“At the moment I had to cut back on food and support and sometimes forego the medication I need because I have to pay for it. It would only take some of the pressure off when things are already stressful. “
Earlier this year, the Social Security Advisory Committee said it was “increasingly untenable” to exclude people on benefits other than universal loans from the £ 20 increase.
With just a week to go to the spending review, @RishiSunak needs to do the right thing and #IncreaseLegacyBenefits ensure the 2 million currently missing £ 20 a week is no longer left behind.
The support for this is overwhelming and the government can no longer ignore it. https://t.co/NWM6Qkexaj
– Z2K (Zacchaeus 2000 Trust) (@ Z2K_trust), November 17, 2020
“Beneficiaries always feel like we’re doing something wrong and are constantly at risk of being kicked out,” said Lee. “If I could take care of myself, I would definitely do it. My friends tell me not to feel bad, they pay their taxes for that, but we just talk about it like we’re scroungers. “
Activists have urged the government to make the universal loan increase permanent, rather than reducing payments in April.
“Adding £ 20 a week to the Universal Loan has been an important financial lifeline for families and an economic stimulus in these turbulent times,” added Iain Porter of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. “As more livelihoods seem uncertain, a strong social security system is essential to prevent rising unemployment that leads to rising poverty.
“Later this month is the obvious moment for the government to do the right thing by making the £ 20 weekly universal loan increase permanent and extending it to those excluded from legacy benefits. It is our job not to lose focus now if we are to protect the standard of living. “
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