The Children’s Society recently worked with a father in Bradford who is set to lose out as welfare reforms relating to the universal credit kick-in. He is a full-time father of three after losing his wife to swine flu last winter. Two of his children are disabled – a four-year-old girl with Down’s Syndrome and her eight-month-old brother who has cerebral palsy.
His budget is at breaking point. He already relies on family and friends to help him out with caring. At present, he receives £197 a month in disability benefits for his daughter. He is still waiting to hear what he might receive for his youngest son.
Under the government’s welfare reform proposals, many disabled children and their families will face a cut of up to £1,400 per year (£27 per week) compared to their current welfare entitlements. The money is paid per child, so families with two disabled children could lose twice this amount.
Our father’s financial lifeline could be severely cut. Depending on the benefits which his eight-month-old son is awarded, he may lose as much as £54 per week compared to the current system.
These new proposals are why a coalition of 30 national organisations and charities, led by The Children’s Society, are calling on the government to reverse its planned cut to support for disabled children. The government estimates that 100,000 disabled children will be hit by this change.
Raising a disabled child is extremely expensive. The range of costs include higher travel expenses, increased fuel bills, extra childcare and loss of income due to hospital appointments. There are also additional costs that come from making sure that disabled children can socialise and live the kind of life other children would take for granted. Losing an amount of £27 per week, which equates to more than half the average family’s food budget, will force many families into poverty.
The government claims that it is making the change in order to align child and adult rates of disability support. But the comparable adults are at some point likely to be able to move back into work. The children who will be receiving the support cannot work to raise extra money to increase their income, and so have no way to escape poverty. It should be recognised that disabled children face additional barriers to escaping poverty and therefore require this extra support.
It is absolutely imperative for people to join us in petitioning the government to understand the significance of this change for disabled children and their families. For many low income families already living on the breadline, this will make the difference between meeting their children’s basic needs and finding themselves unable to cope.
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