The Queen’s Speech was a missed opportunity to change course on the decision to make cuts that will result in 2.5 million working families losing more than £2,100 a year, the impact of which will be to hit the vulnerable people in our society the hardest. The opportunity provided by universal credit to create a simpler benefits system is being undermined by financial decisions and, as a result, we are failing to protect vulnerable groups in particular.
I want to focus on a vulnerable group who are often overlooked, namely young carers. At present, severely disabled adults who are living without a non-disabled adult to provide care for them may be eligible to receive the severe disability premium, which is intended to help them with the additional costs they face. The Government have proposed to have no equivalent of the SDP in universal credit. They propose to use the savings from the SDP to raise the level of benefit paid to those entitled to receive the higher disability addition. However, once universal credit has been fully implemented, severely disabled people with no adult to assist them will be entitled to about £58 less a week than those in the current system.
Between the Office for National Statistics censuses in 2001 and 2011, there was a 20% rise in the number of unpaid carers. As a Welsh MP, I am particularly concerned about the issue, because Wales has a higher proportion than England of young carers providing unpaid care. More than 11,500 children in Wales aged between five and 17 provide unpaid care. If their parents do not have support and protection through universal credit, those children will face additional disadvantage. In four out of 10 households with a disabled lone parent, children help them for more than 15 hours a week. Around 25,000 disabled lone parents receive the severe disability premium. In those families, young carers, especially children aged over 10, are taking on a significant caring role.
The impact of the loss of SDB could be very severe: 83% of those who are eligible for it said that a reduction in benefit would mean that they had to cut back on food, and 80% said that they would have to cut back on heating. Will the Government please consider implementing the Children’s Society recommendation that universal credit should include a self-care element to provide additional support to disabled adults who have no other adult to look after them, to help them with the additional costs that they incur and to ensure that the burden of additional care costs is not placed on young carers?