Very few people with a learning disability are in paid employment and so many rely on welfare benefits like Employment and Support Allowance. Many people with a learning disability also claim benefits like Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which recognise the extra costs of disability.
Benefits have always been below average earnings, so people with a learning disability tend to be poor. Disabled people are twice as likely as other citizens to live in poverty.
Mencap believes that the benefits system should:
- recognise the additional costs that people with a learning disability and their families face
- recognise the multiple barriers to employment that people with a learning disability face, and is sensitive to their particular support needs
- recognise and support those people where work is unlikely ever to be an option due to the nature and severity of their disability
- be flexible enough to allow for the particular circumstances and needs of individuals and does not exclude people through over simplification
- not stigmatise people with disabilities by focusing on abuse of the system.
The Government is reforming the benefits system. Mencap is campaigning to ensure that the needs of people with a learning disability are taken into account and that they get the support they need.
In particular, changes to the welfare system mean that more people with a learning disability will be expected to find work. Mencap believes that people with a learning disability should get specialist support from people trained in learning disability issues to help them move into work. We are lobbying the government on welfare reform so that people with a learning disability get more opportunities to work.
Work Capability Assessment
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is carrying out an evidence based review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). This piece of work is being taken forward by the DWP following a recommendation made by Professor Harrington, who is leading the Independent Review of the WCA.
Previously Mencap - alongside Mind and the National Autistic Society - were asked by Professor Harrington to make suggestions for improving the WCA to better take into account those people with a learning disability, autism and those with mental health conditions. Another group of charities were also asked to consider how the assessment might better take into account those with fluctuating conditions.
In response to the recommendations put forward by the charities, Professor Harrington called on the DWP to test the proposals. This is what the DWP are calling its evidence based review.
You can read more about the review, as well as how and why Mencap is involved and the draft recommendations.
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 has now received royal assent.
The Act provides for the introduction of Universal Credit, to replace most of the benefits and tax credits that currently provide means-tested support (i.e. Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit).
The Act also makes provision for a new benefit, the personal independence payment (PIP), which will replace the existing disability living allowance for those of working age. PIP will remain an "extra costs" benefit to help disabled people meet the additional costs associated with their disability.
Other changes include the introduction of a time-limit of one year for those people receiving Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the work related activity group, as well the introduction of new size criteria for housing benefit claims in the social rented sector. The criteria will mean that any working-age household deemed to be under-occupying their home will lose part of their housing benefit or be forced to move home.
Welfare Reform Bill 2012 Summary
- Read our post-legislative summary of the Act.
- Read our easy read guide on changes to benefits
- Download our briefing for the Welfare Reform Act 2012.
The Government is reforming Disability Living Allowance (DLA). DLA is an extra costs benefit, which helps disabled people to meet the extra costs they face because of their disability.
The recent Welfare Reform Act 2012 legislates for a new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to replace DLA for those of working age from April 2013. Current DLA claimants will start to be reassessed for PIP from October 2013 to March 2016.
The Employment and Support Allowance
In October 2007 the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) replaced incapacity benefit and income support for people with a disability claiming for the first time. A new test has been introduced to decide if someone is eligible to receive the ESA - if they are, they may receive support to help them move into work.
Mencap does not believe that the test is working very well for people with a learning disability. We are campaigning to change this.
- Read our easy read guide to the Employment and Support Allowance
- Overview of the Employment and Support Allowance
- Rates - the Employment and Support Allowance
- ESA Journey - a step-by-step guide to getting Employment and Support Allowance
- ESA: How to make a decision - a Mencap briefing
- ESA: Conditionality and sanctions - a Mencap briefing
- ESA: Changes to the benefits system - a Mencap briefing
The Low Review has now been published
Mencap and Leonard Cheshire Disability asked Lord Low of Dalston, CBE to chair an independent review of people living in state funded residential care. The review was intended to look at how people’s needs are currently met and to complement the government’s own internal review into the removal of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment from disabled people living in residential care.
The review found that:
- DLA mobility is vital in order for people in residential care to maintain independence, and a lifeline to the community.
- There is no evidence of duplication of funding in relation to mobility needs being met by local authorities and those being met by DLA mobility.
- There is very clarity around the responsibilities of local authorities in terms of funding an individual’s personal mobility needs.
In November 2011, Mencap celebrated the government’s announcement that it would no longer remove the mobility component from disabled people living in residential care. However, Mencap will be following up on some of the other recommendations made by the Low Review in its report, Independence, Choice and Control: Personal Mobility in State Funded Residential Care, in order to ensure that disabled people have full control over how their mobility component can best support the. The report is available to download from the Low Review website.
Choir sang to the government
On Tuesday 13 December 2011 the Hardest Hit disabled choir wished "Merry Christmas Government Grinches" with a giant Christmas card from over 23,000 people.
The card was delivered to Number 10 Downing Street and the Department of Work and Pensions, calling on David Cameron and Nick Clegg to protect the basic rights of disabled people.
Disability Benefits Consortium report
The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a coalition of 41 charities and organisations, published a report on 23 March 2011 which shows how welfare reform changes may harm disabled people.
The report presents recent survey findings and highlights concerns over the impact of reforms to vital benefits like Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) on thousands of disabled people and their families. Read the DBC report here.