Disability benefit proposals to have “devastating” impact

Z2K's new campaign, Security Not Sanctions, responds to dangerous changes to disability benefits that will deny vital support to some people who become seriously ill or disabled.

Disability benefits changes are a cause for deep concern

Hundreds of thousands of people with serious mobility problems, or mental health conditions that put them at substantial risk of harm, will be denied support from next year under government proposals, new figures show.

The figures, released by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) after a request from Z2K, show that by 2029, 230,000 people with serious mobility problems preventing them from working will not get any extra Universal Credit, and could be sanctioned if they don’t engage with the Jobcentre.

A further 141,000 people will miss out despite having serious mental health conditions that could put them or people around them at substantial risk of harm if they are forced to meet conditions set by Jobcentre staff.

The changes to the Work Capability Assessment were announced in the Autumn Statement, and are expected to come into force next year.

The figures come as Z2K launches its ‘Security Not Sanctions’ campaign, calling on politicians to reject these changes and ensure the disability benefits system works for the people who need it.

Anela Anwar, Chief Executive of Z2K, said:

“The Department for Work and Pensions plans to deny support to hundreds of thousands of people who fall ill or become disabled after next year.

“This would be devastating for people looking for support because their health or disability has stopped them being able to work. And these figures show that more than 140 thousand people would be at substantial risk of harm.

“Seriously ill and disabled people need security and support, not sanctions, cuts, and high-stakes assessments. Government should focus on the reasons increasing numbers of people are ill and can’t return to work – not removing vital protections that any of us could need in the future.”

 

Justyna’s story* – mobilisation

Justyna has significant physical and mental health problems, including arthritis, lumbar herniation, and depression. She had told the Department for Work and Pensions that she is in severe daily pain and has to rest while her children are at school, because the pain involved in looking after them leaves her exhausted. She provided medical evidence including MRI scan results, but she was awarded no points at all on her Work Capability Assessment.

Z2K supported Justyna to lodge an appeal. The judge felt there was no need for questioning at the hearing, and awarded Justyna 15 points for the Mobilising activity and therefore LCWRA. Justyna was incredibly happy with the result, as the stress of conditionality and the possibility of sanctions had greatly exacerbated her depression.

Under government’s proposals, someone like Justyna would not be granted LCWRA if they made a new application.

*Justyna’s name has been changed

 

Steve’s story – substantial risk

Steve has ongoing physical, neurological, and mental health problems following a car crash several years ago. This meant he was placed in the Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity (LCWRA) group, but after a new Work Capability Assessment in late 2022 he was found fit for work.

This meant an overnight cut to his Universal Credit of over £300, which he had been using to fill the gap between his rent and his housing benefit. It also meant he was subject to conditionality and the threat of sanctions, and had to regularly attend Jobcentre appointments. All of this had a significant impact on his mental health and led to him becoming extremely angry and anxious, and struggling to sleep or eat.

Z2K supported Steve to request a Mandatory Reconsideration, and when that led to no change, to lodge an appeal. After seeing written arguments the Tribunal re-awarded the LCWRA element on the basis of substantial risk to his mental health, without a hearing being needed.

Under government’s proposals, someone like Steve would not be granted LCWRA if they made a new application.

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