The Queens Speech was a missed opportunity to change course on the decision to make cuts that will result in 2.5 million working families losing over £2,100 a year.
The impact of these cuts will hit vulnerable people in our society the hardest. The opportunity available through Universal Credit to create a simpler benefit system is being undermined by financial decisions and as a result failing to protect particularly vulnerable groups.
Many families with children are now expected to be worse off following the move across to Universal Credit. Whilst transitional protection will support many people against cash losses at the point they move on to Universal Credit, this is limited since it:
- will not protect new claimants
- is only cash protection, so its value will be lost over time as a result of inflation, and
- it will be lost if the household undergoes changes in circumstances
I want to focus on one particular vulnerable group that are often overlooked – Young Carers.
At present, severely disabled adults who are living without a non-disabled adult to provide care for them may be eligible to receive the Severe Disability Premium (SDP). This is intended to help them with the additional costs they face from being a disabled person without someone to assist them.
The Government has proposed having no equivalent of the SDP within Universal Credit.
They propose to use the savings from the SDP to raise the level of benefit paid to those entitled to receive the higher disability addition. However, once Universal Credit has been fully implemented, severely disabled people with no adult to assist them, will be entitled to about £58 less a week than those in the current system.
Even the most disabled adults in the support group for ESA will be entitled to £28 less a week than in the current system.
Between the Office for National Statistics census in 2001 and 2011 there has been a 20% rise in the number of unpaid carers. And as a Welsh MP I am particularly concerned about this issue, as Wales has the highest proportion of young carers providing unpaid care across the whole of England and Wales.
Over 11,500 children, aged 5 to 17 in Wales provide unpaid care. Without support and protection for these children’s parents through Universal Credit these children will face additional disadvantage.
We know that for four in 10 households with a disabled lone parent children were helping them for more than 15 hours per week. These children often struggle with not only living in a household on a low income, but with their education and ability to socialise with friends, due to their caring responsibilities.
Young Carers are children who already are taking on responsibilities above and beyond their age to care for those they love and we shouldn’t be adding to that a significant reduction in family income when the family moves onto universal credit.
Reducing the household budget of families further will place additional pressures on these children, having to worry not only for the person they are providing care for, but also about the daily struggle of managing on a low income.
Around 25,000 disabled lone parents are currently in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium. For these families with young carers, children – especially over 10 years of age – are taking on a very significant caring role. The majority were also receiving no support from local authorities or other outside agencies. In fact, according to The Children Society statistics, only 13% of those currently eligible for the SDP were receiving two or more hours a week of social care.
We already know that young carers face barriers in being identified and getting the support they need as a whole family. A survey from The Children’s Society and Citizens Advice found that only 37% of those currently eligible for the SDP were receiving any help from their local authority or an outside agency.
The impact of the loss of SDP could be very severe. 83% of those eligible for SDP said a reduction in benefits would mean they have to cut back on food and 80% would have to cut the amount they spent on heating. The impact this would have on young carers within the family would be significant and a disastrous consequence of the introduction of universal credit for these families.
A reduction in financial support received by the parent will increase the caring burden placed on children; as families will find it more difficult to afford to pay for external support and care.
Would the Government please consider implementing The Children’s Society’s recommendation that Universal Credit should provide a ‘self care’ element to provide additional support to disabled adults with no other adult to look after them, in order to help them with the additional costs this incurs, and to avoid the burden of additional care costs being placed on young carers?