THE sick and disabled could be “pushed into poverty” by last week’s welfare reforms, Rugby’s Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) boss has warned.
David Gooding, who manages Rugby’s CAB office, is worried that people forced to give up work because of sudden serious illness or disability could be up to 60 per cent worse off financially than people in a similar situation now.
Under the changes, contribution-based employment and support allowance (ESA), the main benefit paid to people too ill to work, will be time-limited to 12 months for everyone except the most severely disabled. The government insists the changes are necessary to reduce fraud, simplify the system and get people back to work.
But Mr Gooding said: “The changes mean that many are likely to end up deep in debt and hardship as a result of the government’s welfare reforms, despite having paid national insurance contributions for decades that they thought would provide a safety net if they fell ill.”
The waiting period for the personal independence payment, paid to help people meet the extra costs of disability, will also double to six months.
Mr Gooding added : “People who are suddenly faced with prolonged time off work – because, for example, they have a diagnosis of cancer and need immediate treatment, or have a stroke or a serious accident - often suffer an unexpected and very dramatic drop in income, leading to serious financial difficulties.
“Across Warwickshire we have already seen hundreds of disabled people who struggle to get by on benefits, so it’s really worrying to think that if these changes go ahead, they will push many more people into significant hardship at a time when they most need support. We support the aim of reforming the welfare benefits system to make it simpler and fairer, but these changes are neither simple nor fair.”