Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Lib Dems vote with Tories to cut disabled children’s benefits

Three days after David Cameron vetoed plans for a financial transaction tax to protect his friends in the City, the House of Lords last night voted in favour of reducing top-up payments for disabled children on lower and middle rates of disability living allowance (DLA). An amendment to maintain benefit for disabled children at the minimum of current levels was defeated by just two votes. 46 Liberal Democrats voted with the Conservatives.

These cuts, along with subsequent changes to housing benefit, will leave tens of thousands of families with disabled children up to £3,000 a year worse off. A group of charities called Every Disabled Child Matters says the Government has failed to assess  fully the impact of the proposal which, it claims, will plunge thousands of families with disabled children into poverty.

The top-up payments were designed to meet additional costs, such as transport, heating, laundry, nappies and extra clothes that families have because of a child's disability. The Department for Work and Pensions insists the introduction of a new Universal Credit payment will simplify the system and that "there will be no cash losers". Campaigners, and a growing number of MPs and peers, had hoped to trigger a second U-turn after the Government scrapped plans to cut mobility allowances for some elderly people last month.

At present, parents of children with disabilities who receive DLA are entitled to a substantial top up of their Child Tax Credit entitlement.  This addition is currently worth around £2715 (£52.21 per week) for each child in the household who has a disability. Along with this, children with the most severe disabilities (in receipt of the high rate care element of DLA) are entitled to the severe disability element, worth an extra £1095 (£21.06) – meaning they get a total addition worth £73.27 per week.

Under Universal Credit, additions for disabled children will change to align them with the level of support available for disabled adults. This means that severely disabled children will be entitled to an addition worth £74.50 per week – a very slight increase on current rates.  However, for other children with disabilities, the addition will be reduced to £25.95 per week (£1349.40 per year) – less than half the current rate.

New claimants will receive the reduced support at the point of claiming Universal Credit, while existing claimants will receive transitional cash protection while being transferred on to Universal Credit.

Sources: Family Action/The Independent

Result of vote here (go to Division 2 of 3)