A central plank of the Coalition Government’s legislative programme is fundamental reform of the welfare system. Since the first changes to benefits were announced in 2010, Demos has explored the impact of these on disabled people through the Destination Unknown series, reporting twice a year on how six disabled households have been faring. The study found that disabled people stand to lose £9bn in benefits alone over the course of this Parliament. This fourth and final instalment of the project provides an overview of the experiences of these families and identifies the risks they and other disabled people face in the near future.
Shockingly, it reveals that the worst is yet to come. Since we last caught up with our six families, the Welfare Reform Act has gained Royal Assent. Budget cuts have already had a significant effect but the act contains a number of measures that will reduce the material income of disabled people and their families over the next two years.
By speaking to families themselves, this report reveals the human cost of this loss in income: from increasing isolation and mental health problems to a greater burden on informal carers. It concludes that the Government must change impact assessments so that they do not just consider the aggregate impact of one cut, but assess the cumulative impact of several cuts on individual households. Until the Government is able to understand the household-level impact of multiple changes to benefits and services, the human cost of the austerity measures will remain overlooked and policy will be all the worse for it.