UK – The importance of benefits support

To read on Mencap website:

Note: In the UK, the term of ‘Learning disability’ is used instead of ‘Intellectual disability’.

We need to talk about Benefits

Jo Davies  12/10/2015

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Let’s face it: no-one likes to talk about money. This tricky subject gets even trickier when we’re talking about benefits – or welfare, or social security, as some people prefer to call it. It doesn’t really matter what we call it, but we do have to talk about it. Because benefits support is crucial for many thousands of people with a learning disability and their families – and it is at risk of being lost.

The gaping employment gap

Even though many people with a learning disability want to and can work, most do not have paid jobs.

This is down to a combination of employer discrimination and a lack of support for people in finding and keeping work. And the result? Only 7% of people with a learning disability have a paid job.

This is far lower than the employment rate of disabled people as a whole (just under 50%) and a tenth of the employment rate of the general population (76%).

Not nearly enough is being done by the Government to tackle the causes of this shocking unemployment rate.

Many family carers have to give up work to do the most important job of caring for their loved one.

This means many people with a learning disability and their families rely on benefits support to have enough money to live on. It really is that simple.

Benefits aren’t a luxury – they’re a necessity

With a benefits system that gets more complex each year (the acronyms alone will make you want to lie down in a dark room – ESA, JSA, WRAG, PIP, DLA… where’s that dark room?), and some very nasty things said in the media and by politicians, it’s easy to overcomplicate matters.

The bottom line is that benefits support is not a luxury for the vast majority of people who get it – it is a necessity.

It’s the difference between being able to buy enough food and going hungry.

Government statistics show that 30% of families with a disabled member are currently in poverty. That’s almost 1 in 3.

And that’s before the Government’s next round of benefits cuts have come in.

Through the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, the Government is planning on cutting benefits in lots of different ways.

The main thing to know is: this is a law that would reduce the benefits many people with a learning disability and their families rely on.

What is Mencap doing about this?

In the run-up to the General Election earlier this year, we ran the Hear my voice campaign to get learning disability issues higher up the political agenda.

Thousands of us – people with a learning disability, families, friends and supporters – sent messages to our election candidates, and many of us spoke about benefits.

In response over 800 candidates supported the campaign, leading to 151 MPs in the new Parliament signing up to listen to people with a learning disability.

Since the election Mencap has been going back to those MPs to talk to them about benefits.

What can you do to help?

Now we need those MPs to take action – and this is where you come in.

We want as many people as possible to tell their MPs why they’re concerned about benefits cuts and what they want their MP to do about it.

If MPs realise what this means to the people they represent, they are more likely to speak out against the Government’s plans.

You can take our eaction and email your MP.

If we don’t stop these cuts we risk more people with a learning disability and their families slipping into poverty. And those who are already in poverty will be stuck there.

So we need to brave the awkwardness to protect the safety net that thousands, millions, of people rely on.

We need MPs to hear our voices on benefits, and if we work together they will.

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