Lone parents and disabled people worst hit by welfare reforms
An evidence review by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) researchers on the impact of welfare reforms since 2010 found that they affected the income, living standards and opportunities of a number of protected groups – with disabled people, lone parents and large households bearing the brunt of the negative impact.
In the study, carried out for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and published today, the authors focused on the impact of protected groups as defined by the Equality Act 2010*. After reviewing more than 400 sources of research evidence their findings showed:
- The most affected protected group is disabled people, driven largely by reforms targeting disability benefits directly. Families with disabled adults and disabled children have faced the largest financial loss in cash terms compared to any other household type. In addition, the evidence demonstrates the negative and stressful experience of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) application process.
- There is a particularly strong adverse impact on lone parents. Women represent the vast majority of lone parents and receive a larger proportion of their income from benefits and tax credits and have therefore been affected by cuts across the board.
- The adverse impact on larger households and their children is driven mainly by the decision to limit eligibility to tax credits and Universal Credit (UC) to the first two children, as well as the benefit cap’s negative impact on larger families.
- Ethnic minorities have been impacted disproportionately because of existing higher rates of poverty and in some cases because of location and family size.
- To mitigate these negative effects the authors urge policy-makers to consider not just reversing some of the measures (for instance the freeze on benefits and PIPs) but also to reconsider the welfare and welfare to work system and its impact on protected groups in these three priority areas:
- Supporting equal participation of women and lone parents
- ensuring that disabled people who are able to work have the support they need
- ensuring that disabled people and their families are adequately financially supported where they are unable to work
Report co-author Dr Heather Rolfe said: “The time has also come to rethink the belief system behind the reforms, recognising that effective provision and support are more effective than punishment. This can only happen if we reframe welfare positively, as a means to achieve an acceptable standard of living and as something needed by all sections of society at points in their lifetime.”