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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Disabled cost of living shortfall
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News community affairs

Student in wheelchair
Income gap: Even workers face costs shortfall
Disabled people on benefits are 800 a month short of an acceptable quality of life, says a study.

Those on a minimum wage were also well short of the income needed to have a comparable life to able bodied people.

People with the greatest needs had the highest costs, found the study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The authors said their study shows poverty among disabled people is seriously under-estimated and benefits are falling well short.

For the study, researchers from Loughborough University worked with disabled people from Birmingham, Derby and Nottingham to calculate standardise budgets of what they would need for a standard of living on a level with able-bodied people.

Even maximum benefit levels fall well short of meeting the true costs of disability; and it is equally clear that many disabled people in paid work cannot achieve the income required to meet their needs either
Noel Smith, report author
The study took into account the costs of essentials such as personal assistance costs and routine expenses such as food, transport, clothing and leisure.

In most areas of everyday life the costs were higher for disabled people, the research found; someone needing a lot of personal assistance required at least 533 a week to achieve an acceptable quality of life.

For deaf people the equivalent figure was found to be 376, falling to 345 for people with "low to medium needs".

The costs of transport were found to be one of the greatest factors in the quality of life survey, although communication and leisure costs were highest among deaf people.

The costs for personal assistance, from home care services through to interpreters, ranged from 44 a week for some disabled people through to almost 1,000 for those needing the most help.

Benefits compared

The study compared living costs with the amount of state support available to disabled people in a variety of circumstances, taking into account housing and council tax benefits.

The team found those relying on benefits were between 200 and 230 a week short of the money needed to live a comparable quality of life to able-bodied people.

Where a disabled person worked 20 hours a week on the minimum wage, there were still between 118 and 189 a week short.

Noel Smith, of the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University and co-author of the study said: "Official statistics show that 30 per cent of disabled people are in poverty but these figures are based on income and don't take into account the additional costs of disability.

"Our research highlights just how substantial these additional costs are and so it clearly shows that the extent of poverty among disabled people is seriously under-estimated.

"Even maximum benefit levels fall well short of meeting the true costs of disability; and it is equally clear that many disabled people in paid work cannot achieve the income required to meet their needs either."

A spokesman for the Department for Works and Pensions, responsible for disability issues, said it welcomed the report.

"The Government wants disabled people to take a full and active part in society and, where possible, lead independent lives," she said.

"Specific disability benefits help towards the extra costs resulting from a disability and the Independent Living Fund grants enable thousands of severely disabled people to pay for their own personal care and live independently.

"For those disabled people who can work, the Government provides support into employment through a range of initiatives, such as the New Deal for Disabled People, Access to Work and Workstep."

In September the government revealed less than 2% of those eligible to join the New Deal for Disabled People had done so. The voluntary employment programme helps people with health conditions and disabilities get work.




SEE ALSO:
Poor take-up of disabled New Deal
10 Sep 04  |  Business
UK 'failing disabled jobseekers'
30 Aug 04  |  Business


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