Latest research on money, benefits and learning disability

Families where someone has a disability are more likely to live in relative poverty. You'll find information here on:

  • benefits
  • social care
  • poverty and families
  • access to banking

Benefits

Benefits are a type of financial support provided by the government to help people in need, for example because they are unemployed, on a low income, have children or have a disability.

The main benefits that people with a learning disability or carers may be able to receive are:

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to help with the extra costs caused by a disability
  • Employment and Support Allowance if they can’t work because of a disability
  • Carer’s Allowance if they look after someone with substantial caring needs (Gov.uk 2016)

Overall government spending on these benefits can be seen in Table 2. Data about government spending on these benefits specifically for people with a learning disability is not available.

Number of claimants and government spending on the main disability-related benefits in the UK (2014/15)

In 2014/15, government spending on the main disability-related benefits in the UK was:

  • employment and Support Allowance (ESA) - £13 billion
  • disability Living Allowance (DLA) - £13.9 billion
  • personal Independence Payment (PIP) - £1.6 billion
  • carer’s Allowance - £2.3 billion.

Source: DWP (2015c)

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Social care

As well as benefits, social care can be crucial in helping people with a learning disability to live their life in the way they choose.

The social care and support that somebody with a learning disability needs might range from a few hours of support a week to full 24 hours a day support. Over 1 million adults in England received short-term or long-term social care support in 2014/15 (HSCIC 2015). 

For more information, visit our research and statistics page on social care

Poverty and families

Households where at least one person has a disability are more likely to live in relative poverty than households where no one has a disability. Relative poverty is when a household’s income is less than 60% of the average income of the country they live in (Cribb et al. 2012).

The proportion of UK households living in relative poverty in 2013/14

After housing costs, the proportion of UK households living in relative poverty in 2013/14 was 27% in households where someone has a disability, compared to 19% in households where no one has a disability (DWP 2015a). 

However, relative poverty does not take into account the extra costs associated with a household member having a disability. Research by Scope (2014) found that people with a disability spend an average of £550 a month on things related to their disability, from taxis to specialist equipment like a wheelchair or hoist.

Raising a child with a disability might also require things such as a specially adapted car seat or bicycle. Such items cost significantly more than standard high-street items that are suitable for children without a disability (Contact a Family 2012).

In order to gain a more complete picture of the poverty experienced by people with a disability and their families, it is therefore useful to consider low income and material deprivation. This is a broader measure of poverty, which considers both:

  • low income – when a household’s income is less than 70% of the average income of the country they live in
  • material deprivation – when a household cannot afford key goods and services, such as leisure activities and fresh fruits and vegetables (DWP 2015b).

Young people living in families where someone has a disability are twice as likely to live in low income and material deprivation as young people living in families where no one has a disability.

In 2013-/14, the percentage of young people living in low income and material deprivation was:

  • 22% in families where someone has a disability
  • 10% in families where no one has a disability

Pupils with special educational needs (SEN) are more than twice as likely to be eligible for free school means than pupils without SEN. In January 2015, 28.2% of pupils with SEN were eligible for free school meals, compared to 12.8% of all pupils (DfE 2015).

Young people with a learning disability also experience poorer outcomes in terms of health, housing and education than young people without a learning disability. This is particularly the case for young people with a disability who are from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups or who live in lone-parent households (Blackburn et al. 2010; MacInnes et al. 2015).

In addition, a survey of over 2,000 families of children with a disability found that these families face a number of difficulties:

  • 17% go without food
  • 21% go without heating
  • 26% go without specialist equipment (Contact a Family 2012).

These findings all suggest that young people with a disability are more likely to live in poverty than young people without a disability. It is important to note that other factors – such as having only one parent, having a child under 5 in the family and living in rented accommodation – also play a big role in poverty and material deprivation (Cribb et al. 2012).

  • 27% of UK households live in relative poverty where someone has a disability after housing costs
  • People with a disability spend on average £550 a month on extra costs related to their disability
  • In January 2015, 28.2% of pupils with SEN were eligible for free school meals, compared to 12.8% of all pupils
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Access to banking

Access to banking is important for people with a learning disability, because many people need a bank account in order to get their benefits, spend their money, and manage direct payments.

However, research by Dosh (2014) shows that people with a learning disability may face a number of difficulties in accessing banks and building societies. These include:

  • bank staff not being sure whether some people with a learning disability have the mental capacity to open a bank account
  • banks not giving people the right support to access their money – such as offering them a card requiring a signature instead of a PIN number
  • banks not providing accessible information or support to help people manage their bank account

References 

  • Blackburn, C. M., Spencer, N. J. and Read, J. M. (2010) ‘Prevalence of childhood disability and the characteristics and circumstances of disabled children in the UK: secondary analysis of the Family Resources Survey,’ BMC Pediatrics, 10: 12.
  • Contact a Family (2012) Counting the Costs 2012: the Financial Reality for Families with Disabled Children across the UK. Available online (accessed 25/04/16).
  • Cribb, J., Joyce, R. and Phillip, D. (2012) Living Standards, Poverty and Inequality in the UK (IFS Commentary C124). Available online (accessed 25/04/16).
  • Department for Education (2015) Special Educational Needs in England: January 2015. Available online (accessed 25/04/16).
  • Department for Work and Pensions (2015a) Fulfilling Potential – Outcomes and Indicators Framework: Data Tables. Available online (accessed 09/05/16).
  • Department for Work and Pensions (2015b) Fulfilling Potential – Outcomes and Indicators Framework: Second Annual Progress Report. Available online (accessed 25/04/16).
  • Department for Work and Pensions (2015c) Benefit expenditure by country and region, 1996/97 to 2014/15 (Benefit Expenditure and Caseload Tables 2015). Available online (accessed 09/05/16).
  • Dosh (2014) Access to Banking for people with a Learning Disability, Banking Rights Research Project: Final Report. Available online (accessed 28/04/16).
  • Gov.uk (2016) Financial Help if you’re Disabled. Webpage (accessed 28/04/16).
  • HSCIC (2015) Community Care Statistics: Social Services Activity, England 2014-15. Available online (accessed 26/04/16).
  • MacInnes, T., Tinson, A., Hughes, C., Born, T. B. and Aldridge, H. (2015) Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2015. Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Available online (accessed 25/04/16).
  • Scope (2014) Priced out: Ending the Financial Penalty of Disability by 2020. Available online (accessed 25/04/16).
  • Note on statistics: a lot of government data is not broken down into different disability types, so many of the statistics on this page refer to all people with a disability - not just people with a learning disability.

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