42% of people in households relying on disability benefits are in poverty – new analysis

More than four in 10 people living in households which rely on disability benefits are in poverty, according to new analysis.

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) said the benefits system is broken for disabled people who have been repeatedly failed by successive governments.

Some 42% of people living in a family where someone is claiming disability benefits are in poverty, according to analysis of the Family Resources Survey covering 2018-19, the most recent available data.

And half of all people living in poverty in the UK are disabled or live in a family that includes a disabled person, according to Social Metrics Commission (SMC) data.

The SMC figures show there are now 1.8 million more people in poverty living in a family that includes a disabled person compared with 15 years ago.

The SMF’s report, sponsored by the disability charity Scope, says increasingly costly government support has failed to prevent disabled people and their families from falling into poverty.

Tackling this in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected disabled people disproportionately, is essential, the SMF said.

It cites the Department for Work and Pension (DWP)’s upcoming Green Paper and the Government’s cross-Government disability strategy as key opportunities for change.

SMF senior researcher Matthew Oakley (pictured) said the 42% figure is “simply unacceptable”.

He said: “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.”

James Taylor, executive director of strategy, impact and social change at Scope, said disabled people have been failed by the welfare system and “trapped in poverty by a string of inflexible, bewildering and cruel rules and decisions”.

The Government has a “momentous” opportunity with the upcoming Green Paper, he said, adding: “Scope and the SMF together cannot stress enough how important this moment is.

“The last year has seen thousands upon thousands of disabled people lose jobs, and many more are having to make impossible choices about how to make ends meet.

“We urge Government to challenge itself and put disabled people at the heart of its thinking into what a successful welfare system needs to look like, not just now but in the long term.”

A DWP spokesman said: “We are committed to supporting disabled people through the pandemic and beyond.

“That’s why we spend £55 billion a year on disability benefits and our inclusive £30 billion Plan for Jobs is creating and protecting jobs for disabled people across the country.

“Our upcoming Health and Disability Green Paper will explore how we can go further so the welfare system better meets the needs of disabled people and those with health conditions now and in the future.”

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