This week the Government and Labour voted in favour of a welfare cap that will see an overall spending on benefits capped for the next few years. Worryingly, disability benefits are included in this cap and this has the potential to be yet another blow for disabled people who seem to have borne the brunt of this Government's reforms.
All too often disabled people are being hit the hardest by this Government's spending cuts. Many disabled people are struggling to make ends meet as they face long delays for assessment for PIP, have been hit by the bedroom tax and experience cuts to social care. In reality, the only way to keep spending below the newly announced welfare cap will be to restrict benefits for this same group.
Benefits aren't just for people who are out of work. They cover a wide range of situations and personal circumstance. We know that finances are tight, but putting an arbitrary cap on benefits is not the answer. Providing someone with the right support from welfare is definitely a long term investment.
Sense has recently launched 'I fear for my future' a report into the challenges that people with sight and hearing loss have experienced over the past year as a result of cuts to social care and the Government's benefit reforms. In fact times have been so difficult that we have received a 40% increase in the number of deafblind people contacting us for support and advice. Many of the people that we spoke to are fearful for the future and a lack of social care and the benefit reforms are having a huge impact on their lives.
But if the importance of a good quality of life isn't enough to persuade politicians of the importance of investing in disabled people, there is also the financial case. In the long term, forcing deafblind people to crisis point has a huge financial impact on society and leads to increased hospital admissions and further social care costs. Cuts to social care will have a knock on effect and will result in further demands on the NHS. As people reach crisis point they can become more susceptible to falls or require hospital treatment because they didn't get the support they needed from social care.
The Government must look again at how the needs of deafblind and disabled people are going to be met. Social care must be properly funded so people can live as independently as possible and we must provide disabled people with fair financial support. We don't know how exactly the welfare cap is going to work in practise and what will happen when we reach the cap. But this is yet another disappointing policy decision for disabled people that fails to acknowledge that providing them with the right support is in all our interests. Most importantly, the immediate impact will be to add to disabled people's fears about the future.