Following the Universal Credit uplift, more than 119,000 people have signed for a petition which calls for legacy benefits recipients to receive the same increase. More than 119,000 people have since signed a petition calling for two million disabled people, lone parents and families receiving legacy benefits to also benefit from a £20 weekly uplift.
Today, campaigners have handed the “Don’t Leave Disabled People Behind” petition, which was set up by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Among those not receiving the uplift are those on legacy benefits including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support.
Ella Abraham, Z2K’s Policy and Campaigns Officer and Campaigns Co-Chair of the DBC, said: “For disabled people and others on legacy benefits, being denied the £20 per week life line that those on Universal Credit have received has meant real hardship.
“It is unacceptable for the Government to maintain that only those who have had to claim Universal Credit as a result of the pandemic are in financial need.
“The Government must take this opportunity in the upcoming Spending Review to act now, end this discriminatory two tier welfare state and ensure that the 2 million people on legacy benefits receive this vital extra support and are no longer left behind.”
Anastasia Berry, Policy Manager at the MS Society and Policy Co-Chair of the DBC, said: “It is a disgrace that the Government has ignored the needs of disabled people, including those with MS, for over eight months.
“Time and time again they have been asked to provide extra financial support for a group of people who, through no fault of their own, happen to be on a different benefit to others.
“MS is relentless, painful and disabling, and around a third living with the condition rely on ESA because they are simply unable to work.
“The poor excuse of an outdated and archaic computer system is no longer valid as we approach the announcement of the annual benefit uprating.
“The Government must act now, and stop discriminating against disabled people.”
For more than eight months now, thousands of people living with a disability or with long-term health conditions have faced immense hardship as a result of the pandemic – from having to spend more on safely accessing food and getting to and from medical appointments, to paying more for vital care.
Karen Pickering, from the west coast of Scotland, was diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2007.
Since March, she has only left her house a handful of times due to shielding – meaning her bills have rocketed and are higher than ever.
Karen, who receives ESA and Personal Independence Payment (PIP), said: “Being stuck at home for the last seven months has meant my cost of living has gone up.
“I can’t just pop out to get a loaf of bread, so I’m having to pay for regular food deliveries.
“I can’t get out to walk my dog every day and instead have to pay for a dog walker – it all adds up.
“I had no idea I was missing out on £20 a week, but it’s really upsetting to think my needs aren’t considered as important as others.
“The money might not seem a lot to the Government, but it would make the world of difference to me.”
Kevin Whitworth, from the Isle of Lewis, has also struggled during the coronavirus pandemic.
He has lived with brain damage following a fall just over 10 years ago, and received ESA since 2016.
For the last seven months, Kevin hasn’t been able to afford food to make a cooked meal.
He said: “Money is tight, and I’m living off of cereal. Having an extra £20 would mean that I could eat proper meals again.
“It’s really unfair that people like me on older legacy benefits aren’t getting the same help those on Universal Credit are getting – we need money as well.“
Responding to this day of action, Iain Porter, Policy & Partnerships Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “The £20 weekly uplift to Universal Credit has been a vital financial lifeline for families and an economic stimulus during these turbulent times. As more livelihoods look uncertain, a strong social security system is essential to preventing rising unemployment leading to a surge in poverty.
“The Government recognised pre-pandemic levels of support were inadequate. However, it withheld this same lifeline to those on legacy benefits – mostly sick or disabled people and carers.
“There is no doubt that ministers face many challenging decisions, however, this is simple. It would go against what we stand for as a society to continue to withhold this support from many of those at greatest risk of poverty.
“Later this month, is the obvious moment for the Government to do the right thing by making the £20 a week increase to Universal Credit permanent and extending it to those excluded on legacy benefits.
“It’s incumbent on all of us to not to lose our focus now if we are to protect living standards.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We are wholly committed to supporting disabled people through the pandemic, boosting welfare support by £9.3billion to help those most in need, introducing the Covid Winter Support Package for those on low incomes and making £3.7billion available to local authorities to help address pressures on local services including adult social care.”