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Welfare Long-term sickness benefits for the disabled are not enough to make ends meet, a major survey finds

DISABLED people on long-term sickness benefits are struggling to eat and pay bills, a major survey has found.

Some 60 per cent of people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) said the amount they receive is not enough to cover their basic needs.

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a national coalition of more than 80 different charities and other organisations, conducted the survey of 1,755 respondents who receive ESA, the main long-term sickness benefit.

The shocking study also found that 62 per cent of respondents were struggling to keep healthy, 49 per cent could not pay their bills and 32 per cent could not afford to eat.

The scheme pays a minimum of £73.10 a week following a £30-per-week cut implemented last April for new claimants in the so-called ESA working group — those who have not been found fit for work, but supposedly may be in the future.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams branded the findings “a damning indictment of the government's treatment of sick and disabled people.

“If this government is committed to a fairer society, they should stop trying to rebuild the economy off the backs of poor, sick and disabled people.”

Former ESA claimant Kevin Stannard was made redundant from a blind-fitting firm where he had worked for 40 years, after his Parkinson’s symptoms stopped him working.

He and his wife Amanda said they faced a “horrendous” four years in the ESA working group before the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) finally moved him onto full ESA benefit in 2016.

Ms Stannard said: “It got to the point that we were going to lose the roof over our heads as we couldn’t pay the rent. Luckily our local councillor stepped in to help us at that point.

“Despite in the end the Department for Work and Pensions agreeing that we were right, we are still living with the consequences of that awful time.”

The DWP said it did not recognise DBC’s findings and that its own research showed 83 per cent of people were satisfied with ESA.

The DBC is due to meet Disabilities Minister Sarah Newton to urge her to accept that some people will never be able to return to work.

 

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