The five-week wait: the heavy impact it will have on families with deaf children
The proposal to increase the waiting time for financial support when people lose their jobs, as part of the Universal Credit scheme, does nothing to help claimants find work. Combined with the delays in processing claims it is likely to be 5-6 weeks before many claimants receive any Universal Credit. At the National Deaf Children’s Society we are particularly concerned about the likely impact on families with deaf children.
The financial costs of having a deaf child may not be as obvious as for other disabilities, but they are very real. For example, children may have to attend frequent appointments with audiologists and a young child may need new hearing aid moulds several times a year. Attending these appointments is not only likely to involve travel costs, but may also require parents to take time off work, in some cases without pay. Deaf children often fall behind with their education, and many parents of deaf children use their disability living allowance to pay for extra tuition in core subjects. Suitable childcare and out of school activities are often hard to find and may involve extra expense on travelling or paying for an extra child to attend to help with communication.
If the parent of a deaf child becomes unemployed and has to claim Universal Credit, a wait of 5-6 weeks before receiving benefit is likely to place them in the position of having to choose whether to use their DLA to meet the child’s needs or whether to use it to keep the household running while they wait for benefit. Parents may be unable to afford to take their child to audiology appointments, or may have to cancel extra tuition or after-school activities. Many deaf children already fall behind their hearing counterparts in education, and delays in getting the aids they need, or the extra tuition that helps to redress the balance, will have long-term effects compounding this.
The situation could be even worse for families with older children due to the lengthy delays being experienced by claimants for the Personal Independence Payment that has replaced DLA for over-16s. Families in this position may have nothing to fall back on while they wait for one of these two new benefits to finally be processed and put into payment.
The National Deaf Children’s Society Stolen Futures campaign highlights the many services for deaf children and young people that have already been reduced or withdrawn as a result of spending cuts. This increased delay before benefit is paid only makes a bad situation worse. We urge the Government not to implement the longer waiting period and to ensure that all benefits are processed efficiently and paid on time.
Saving Our Safety Net is a new campaign from the TUC that aims to defend a decent welfare system that provides help to those who need it, when they need it. You can find out more at the www.savingoursafetynet.org