More than meets the eye to welfare cuts for blind people
Forthcoming reforms in welfare provision pose a substantial threat to the incomes and independence of hundreds of thousands of people living with sight loss in the UK. That is the finding of the new report I have written on behalf of RNIB and six other sight loss charities. In “More than meets the eye: why the welfare cuts will hit blind and partially sighted people particularly hard” we argue that measures affecting entitlement to Disability Living Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance represent a major assault on working age people in particular.
The debate on welfare reform is already heating up in anticipation that the Government will introduce its Bill in the next couple of weeks. We have seen a steady stream of newspaper articles spreading the myth that the majority of people claiming Employment and Support Allowance are “faking” their disability or illness. Only this week, one of Britain’s best-loved dailies questioned why nearly a million people have been claiming Disability Living Allowance for at least 14 years, despite the fact that DLA is a benefit designed to meet extra costs resulting from long-term health conditions and impairments.
We urge the Government to work with sight loss charities to achieve the fairness that it promised in its reforms. If the DLA proposals are implemented, as many as 12,000 people registered blind or partially sighted could lose their Disability Living Allowance entitlement from 2013.
92% of employers say they would find it “impossible” or “difficult” to employ someone blind or partially sighted, yet the Government proposes to limit out-of-work support. Claimants on contributory Employment and Support Allowance in the Work Related Activity Group must defy the odds and secure work within 12 months, something that will prove impossible for many disabled people.
Like a perfect storm, welfare cuts will be debated in Parliament at the same time local authorities make swingeing cuts to services that enable blind and partially sighted people to live independently, participate in the community and find work.
Our report sets out an alternative vision for economic recovery based on inclusive recruitment and retention practices. Instead of removing people’s benefits, we argue the Government should focus on the support blind and partially sighted people need to move towards independence and employment.