Government’s autumn statement gives with one hand, takes away with the other

The top of the Elizabeth Tower at Westminster (nicknamed Big Ben) against a cloudy sky
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Today’s Autumn Statement by the Chancellor has once again let down people with complex disabilities.

The statement has given with one hand and taken away with the other, uprating benefits in line with inflation while simultaneously heaping undue pressure onto disabled people to find work.

Let’s break down what has been announced…

Benefits rise with inflation

Government have raised benefits in-line with September’s inflation rate. As they should.

Before the statement it had been reported that, for the April 2024 uprating, the Government was considering using the October rather than September inflation rate. This implies uprating by 4.6% rather than the 6.7% announced today.

This would have been a mistake, and we are glad the Government have not done this.

It was vital that benefits go up in line with the current rate of inflation. Anything less than that would have meant a real-terms cut in the income of disabled people on benefits.

Disabled people still need more financial support

However, today’s announcement doesn’t go far enough. The Government needs to go further than simply uprating benefits in line with inflation.  Benefits aren’t enough to live on and we know that people are having to make impossible decisions about eating, heating and using essential equipment.  

We know that people with complex disabilities are more likely to be adversely affected by the rising cost of living and were disappointed that there were no measures announced to address this.  

Sense’s cost-of-living research found that over three quarters of people with complex disabilities (76%) in receipt of benefits are worried about how they financially cope over the winter months.

The Department for Work and Pensions needs to do more to make sure that disabled people have the money they need to lead independent and meaningful lives.

That’s why Sense is calling for the Government to build a benefits system that always meet the needs of disabled people – whatever the rate of inflation.  We also want to see more targeted support to tackle the cost-of-living crisis for disabled people.  This would include a social tariff for energy to recognise the higher usage disabled people have.  

Government plans to get people “back to work”

The Government wants to see more people in work. They are doing this by making changes to Work Capability Assessments, making them tighter and assessing more people as “fit to work”.

The WCA determines entitlement to benefits that help cover day-to-day living costs for people whose capability for work is limited by either a disability or health condition.

The Government says changes would give those who can work “the right support and opportunities to move off benefits and towards the job market”.  We responded to the consultation on the proposals and raised serious concerns about the impact they would have on people with complex disabilities.  

We believe everyone should be able to work if they want to and can. However, it will never be the right option for every disabled person.

Whilst not all the initial proposals are being taken forward, we still have concerns about how the changes will impact on people with complex disabilities.  There is a wider narrative issue around working from home and flexible working meaning that disabled people can and should work.  This may be true for some but there remain issues around the jobs available, access to technology and employer attitudes.  

Simply saying that flexible working has removed the barrier to work puts unfair pressure on disabled people rather than fixing the issues in the system and jobs market.  

Disabled people need more support to get back into work

We know the Government hopes the changes they’re proposing will help more people into work, it is clear to us that they won’t.

Disabled people already face many unique barriers to entering employment. The Government proposals will try to force people into work, without investing in the right support to remove the barriers they face.

Sense research has found:

  • Almost a third (31%) of jobseekers with complex disabilities said that having assistive technology in their jobcentre would help them find work, yet no job centres across the country have this available.  We also know that employers are not always accommodating of their disabled employees.
  • More than half (52%) of people with complex disabilities in work have told us they’ve taken on a less challenging job because their needs as a disabled person are simply not being met.

The Government urgently need to invest first in tackling the barriers disabled people face, looking for and staying in work.

We’ve previously talked about the types of important support the Government should invest in. Including a £5 million Jobcentre Assistive Technology Fund which would supply every jobcentre with basic assistive technology to meet the needs of disabled people.

We’ll be keeping up the pressure on the government

Today doesn’t end our work calling for more financial support for people with complex disabilities and their families. We’ll be continuing to campaign and influence on this topic.

Do you want to see change happen? Join our campaign demanding more support for disabled people in the cost of living crisis.

Get in touch

If you are an MP, peer or from government and would like more information about the work of Sense and how you could be involved locally and nationally contact the team on [email protected].

If you are a researcher, or would like to know more about our policy research work please contact [email protected]

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