Please be assured that I am aware of the campaign by Scope on this issue and will try my best to attend the event by the APPG for Disability and Scope, Parliamentary business permitting.
Both the Government and I are committed to ensuring the best possible quality of life for people with disabilities. The Government recognises the additional barriers faced by people with disabilities and has acted to protect the most vulnerable as the cost of living rises.
As a number of concerns have been raised on this issue, I address each in turn below.
Although the Chancellor announced difficult decisions on the public finances in his Autumn Statement on 17 November 2022, he recognised that a strong economy depends on strong public services.
That is why the Government is going to grow public spending, albeit more slowly than the growth of the economy. For the remaining two years of this Spending Review period, the Government will protect, in cash terms, the increases in departmental budgets already set out. It will then grow resource spending at 1 per cent, in real terms, in the three years that follow.
As a result, overall spending on public services will continue to rise, in real terms, for the next five years. Notably, there will be significant funding boosts for the NHS and schools.
I understand the importance of a properly funded social care system in tackling the barriers faced by disabled people. That is why the Chancellor has announced additional grant funding of £1 billion next year and £1.7 billion the year after.
Combined with other measures, the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement provides an increase in funding available for the social care sector of up to £2.8 billion next year and £4.7 billion the year after.
This increase will allow the social care system to help deliver an estimated 200,000 more care packages over the next two years – the biggest increase under any Government of any colour in history.
The NHS budget will also be increased by an extra £3.3 billion in each of the next two years.
Increase benefits in line with inflation
I strongly welcome the Chancellor’s announcement during the Autumn Statement 2022 that the Government will continue to protect the most vulnerable by increasing benefits by 10.1 per cent for 2023/24, in line with inflation. This means that more than ten million households in receipt of working-age and disability benefits will see an increase in their benefit payments. The average uplift for households receiving Universal Credit will be around £600.
Moreover, disabled people will receive a second Disability Cost-of-Living Payment of £150 in recognition of the extra challenges they face. There will also be additional one-off payments of £900 for the eight million households on means-tested benefits and a second £300 Pensioner Cost-of-Living Payment.
Protect the non-means-tested nature of disability benefits
Both DLA and PIP are intended to act as a contribution towards the extra costs that arise as a result of a long-term health condition, or disability, and have been non-means tested since they were introduced.
The Government has no plans to means-test these benefits.
The Government is taking decisive and unprecedented action to support households as the cost of living increases.
Under the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG), the typical household will pay no more than £2,500 on their energy bill until April 2023. Thereafter, the price cap will rise so that the typical household will pay no more than £3,000 until April 2024. The EPG will save the average household a further £500 and mean they will not have to face energy bills of £6,000 this winter.
Abolish “no recourse to public funds”
The general expectation of the Government is that migrants coming into the UK should be able to maintain and accommodate themselves without recourse to public funds. This reflects the need to maintain the confidence of the general public that immigration brings benefits to our country, rather than costs to the public purse.
Those who have leave to remain in the UK on human rights grounds can apply to have their no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition removed if they would otherwise be destitute. Local authorities can also provide a safety net for those in genuine need of care that does not solely arise from destitution. These include cases where there are community care needs, migrants with serious health issues, or family cases.