I just wanted to state some facts before I write further.
- My wife is disabled and needs 24/7 care
- My wife has a progressive condition
- I am her full-time carer
- We have a disabled child who also needs care during the day and night
- I am disabled too, with a fluctuating condition that is also progressive
- We have other children too
- Both my wife and I used to be able to work and did work for many years
- I used to earn way above an average salary (more than MPs if I am being open)
- We had to sell our house, car and valuables to support ourselves
- Over time, we had to exhaust ALL of our savings (and pension) to pay for equipment, adaptations and care help for which we could not get grants
- We are now dependent upon welfare and disability benefits
- There was no way to predict earlier in our lives that this would happen to us, or how bad it could get. As my consultant said, it could happen to anyone, anytime.
Before the cuts, I have to admit that we did struggle, and we could not always make ends meet.
However, since 2011, we have had to replace some equipment – which used up the last of our savings – and the recent cuts we have suffered to-date now mean that we simply do not have the money to pay all of our bills.
This isn’t a question of us ‘cutting back’ . We’ve nothing left to cut back on! But the problem is bigger than that – the difference between what we HAVE to pay out and what comes in is simply too big to bridge.
I know that there are many people with disabilities in this position now but the General Public does not seem to be aware of how severe the problem is.
What’s worse is that there are more cuts to come.
I realize that many people who are working THINK that they are earning or have less money than those on benefits. However, the fact is that this is not the case.
Many people who work claim Housing Benefit (HB) and receive other benefits in the form of tax credits, child benefits and others. One problem is that many who do working don’t know about or don’t claim that to which they are entitled.
In the figures I looked at, only 1 in 8 on HB are unemployed – the remainder being working people, carers and people with disabilities who are unable to work.
The real issue is one the Government tries to keep the focus off – and the General Public from realizing – viz., that the cost of living is unaffordable and rising and earnings are too low in comparison.
This is the real problem.
What people have seen in Housing Benefit payment merely reflects the high and rising cost of living. It is a by-product of the real problem.
Implementing cuts will not reduce the cost of living or improve earnings; in fact, severe, deep cuts are putting a stranglehold on the economy.
When the knock-on effects of the cuts and reforms become visible, this will cast doubt into financial and employment markets.
One has to consider that employers know that employees are often unable to make ends meet on the minimum wage or low salaries. They are aware that people also have to claim Housing Benefit – because earning are not enough.
That should start alarm bells ringing.
In work, people have more easier access to overdrafts, credit cards and pay-day loans – but people are using these just to get by every month. The alarm bells should be ringing like crazy now!
All the evidence points to the real problem.
How can financial markets gain confidence over doubt in a country in which the workforce suffers from such basic personal financial problems?
One really has to step back and THINK about these things, rather than just REACTING.
Economic theory is one thing – but experience shows us that it takes more than that.
We must tackle the cost of living vs earnings problem.
I am fed up with this talk of the £26k cap.
I am assuming this relates to people in London or areas where private landlords are charging obscene or high rents.
I assume this because THAT amount of money (£26k) can only come from Housing Benefit – a benefit that goes to the landlord, NOT the tenant.
In my area, despite house prices falling and the cuts in Housing Benefits, rents have gone up by around 11%.
So much for the Government’s idea.
It was never a good idea.
Because Housing Benefit was only paid on the 50th percentile. People still had to top up their HB to pay their rent in full.
In addition, landlords stated that if they could not get the rents they wanted, they would just rent to non-HB tenants.
After all, as HB was only paid on the 50th percentile, there was plenty of scope above that level. This is especially as family homes (i.e., larger homes) tend to be above that level anyway.
That’s not to say that all landlords are greedy. But if a landlord wants or needs x amount in rent each month and they cannot get that now via HB tenants (because the tenant cannot afford to make up the difference), they are very unlikely to accept or even consider lowering the rent. We’ve already seen landlords deserting their HB tenants.
You see, it doesn’t do much for lowering rents – for people in and out of work.
I repeat: I am fed up with this talk of the £26k cap.
Our Housing Benefit is less than £440pcm – and we receive all the benefits that we are entitled to. We also have to top up to pay our rent.
We do not get anything like £26k. Not even half that – and that’s with two disabled adults (one severely), a disabled child and other children.
Yet, we face costs and expenses that most fit and healthy working people never have.
Because we have to use more gas and electricity, our utility bill is very high. It fluctuates, but during discussions with our supplier, they told me that my usage per quarter is between 2 and 4 times as much as a typical bill for a family in a similar property.
Why so much more?
Well, we have significant extra washing for a number of reasons (which uses a lot more than one might think) and equipment for a start. Then there’s extra heating. Then, we are at home when others are at work (and work gives people the luxury of using their employers power for free).
That’s at least 30-35 hours more per week, plus time otherwise spent commuting etc – it’s easily 40 hours per week more. That’s a lot more usage – but we do not get any extra income to pay towards this AND energy bills have been rising and rising.
That is the tip of the iceberg.
The point is, at a time when disabled people actually need more financial help and support, the Welfare Reform Bill fails to recognize this or protect people with disabilities.
As a start, disabled people (not just single) should be exempt from the Housing Benefit Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate cut and exempt from the ‘bedroom ‘tax’.
Many disabled people and disabled children need an extra bedroom when they are simply unable to share – either because there is not the space due to equipment or because it is unsafe.
Extra equipment, such as special beds, wheelchairs, hoists, commodes and other equipment also requires large areas space. These are not items one can just put in a cupboard.
We have already seen how these cuts are pushing people into care homes or the care of the NHS. This costs FAR MORE; specialist care can cost thousands EACH WEEK and a multidisciplinary NHS team much, much more – not to mention using vital beds and staff.
As each week passes, my family is getting into more debt. With have a fixed income with no means to save. We do not have access to overdrafts, loans or credit cards. We have no disposable cash and now MORE than one bill goes unpaid each month.
And the advice of the bank, local CAB and others is the same – write to your MP!
When the truth of what is really happening to the vulnerable and disabled people (some of who are our brave soldiers who have returned with severe injuries) – when that truth finally hits the eyes of the General Public, the majority will not tolerate it. The tide will turn.
But how many have to unnecessarily suffer in the meantime? How many have to be forced into inescapable debt? How many have to be pushed into care homes? How many have to lose their independence? And how many will die unnecessarily in the meantime?