Disabled people 'at tipping point' in face of welfare cuts, says campaign
Disabled people in South Devon are being hit hardest by Government welfare cuts, a new report has warned.
The Hardest Hit, a coalition of more than 90 disabled people's organisations and charities, claims the Government's failure to protect the region's disabled population from cuts will drive them into isolation.
As part of the report called The Tipping Point, the coalition surveyed more than 400 people in the South West. It found more than 90% of disabled people said losing their disability living allowance (DLA) would be detrimental to their health, and 85% said losing benefits would drive them into isolation.
Jim McKenzie, of CAB Cornwall, said: "What we have noticed is that as support needs have increased, we are losing resources.
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"Much of our funding for specialist help to clients will be removed from next year, which will affect around 2,000 people seeking advice.
"People in general will need help when the help is being cut. The cuts are disproportionately affecting people of working age and at a time when gas, utility and fuel bills are rising. If the recession does end, when will we see the effect?
"As support for people is shrinking an advice vacuum is being created. Meanwhile, changes in the benefit system mean that we will be inundated with clients. We are unsure about our ability to meet demand.
"My personal worry is that private companies will fill the vacuum, with concerns about quality of the advice or support they will offer and fees or donations that may be requested."
The survey also found almost two thirds of disabled people in the South West felt benefit assessors did not understand their impairment or condition, and almost 90% said losing support would mean a greater reliance on family and carers.
Steve Paget, chairman of Disability Cornwall, said: "It is down to the smaller organisations to pick up the pieces. We want to increase support for disabled people, but instead the cuts will increase our workload and make it harder for people to get help when they most need it."
Jaspal Dhani, co-chair of Hardest Hit campaign, said: "Disabled people are at a tipping point because the financial and human cost of cuts to benefits is far too high.
"Disabled people have already endured £9 billion worth of spending cuts nation-wide in this Parliament, and the Government has recently announced its intention to cut a further £10 billion from the welfare budget.
"Cuts are already pushing many disabled people into poverty, ill health and isolation."
The Hardest Hit coalition estimated that the potential costs of abolishing the DLA will be around £1.6 billion. It also predicts Britain's 3.6 million people claiming disability benefits will be £9 billion worse from 2010 to the end of the current parliament.