We are tackling some of the myths around benefits, to help people understand why they are so vital for people with a learning disability.
Myth 1: We would spend a lot less money on benefits if people didn’t cheat the system
In fact people making false benefit claims made up less than 1% of the total amount spent on benefits in 2014/15. It’s estimated that more than ten times the amount that is fraudulently claimed, goes unclaimed each year. So far more money is saved by people not claiming than is lost by people cheating the system.
Myth 2: Benefits are too generous, they encourage unemployment
Research by the Centre for Class and Social Studies shows that this is simply not true. For example, a single person working for 30 hours per week on the minimum wage would be £2,270 better off every year than on unemployment benefits, while a single parent with two children working the same hours would be £4,605 better off every year than on unemployment benefits.
Myth 3: Most benefits are for unemployed people
This is not true. The largest group of people receiving benefits are retired people - over half of social security is spent on pensions. The next highest amount of money, 18% of the total welfare budget, is spent on benefits for people who are in work, such as tax credits. Unemployment benefits count for just 2% of total benefits spending, while disability benefits account for 15%.
Myth 4: Hardly anyone gets benefits
20.3 million families receive some kind of benefits (64% of all families). For 9.6 million families, benefits make up more than half of their income (30% of all families).
Myth 5: Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is meant to be a short-term benefit
There has been much discussion from the Government about the purpose of ESA, with Iain Duncan Smith referring to it as a short-term benefit. The Welfare Bill [link] is currently proposing to cut the payment that someone in the ESA work-related activity group (WRAG) gets by a third, or £30 per week.
However, ESA is not supposed to be a short term benefit. ESA WRAG, by its very definition, is for people who currently have ‘limited capability for work’. People in this group should be able to undertake work-related activity and move towards work, but it should be recognised that this is often not a quick process.
Myth 6: You can only get a blue badge if you’re in a wheelchair
This is not true. You can get a blue badge if you, or your child, are aged over two and:
- are registered blind
- get the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- live in England and have been awarded 8 points or more in the ‘moving around’ activity for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Fact: The benefits system is changing for disabled people
The Welfare Reform and Work Bill is currently in the House of Lords and will soon go back to MPs for one last vote before it becomes law.
Among its proposals are for ESA WRAG to be cut by £30 per week for new claimants. Mencap, along with other members of the Disability Benefits Consortium, is campaigning against this cut as we believe that people with a learning disability need the money that they get from ESA to be able to move towards work when they’re ready.