On Thursday 11th September 2014, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) published a report investigating the effect that Universal Credit (UC), the government’s proposed new benefit system, will have on disabled people.

They discovered that, among other problems, any sick or disabled people who wish to challenge a ‘fit for work’ decision will be treated as if they are ‘fit for work’ until after their appeal is heard and they will not receive support if they don’t carry out their job search requirements.

Under the current system people have to wait until their claim has gone through ‘mandatory reconsideration’ before they receive the basic rate of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – this is currently taking up to six weeks.

They have the option of claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) but the evidence shows that many of those appealing a decision are unable to fulfil their job search requirements.

Under Universal Credit, sick & disabled people could end up in this position for over a year if they challenge a ‘fit for work’ decision and take it to appeal.

An extra shift at work should mean more money in your pocket, but under universal credit single people without children and relatively higher earners will generally gain for each hour of work.

Couples where one person is in work and the other is seriously ill or disabled will also see much better incentives to work than in the current system.

However CAB’s analysis shows that under Universal Credit:

  • Many disabled people will find that though they face extra costs when working, they are not able to access extra financial support.
  • Others will find it is beneficial for them to reduce their hours of work to access the extra financial support they need.
  • Disabled working parents will lose money by working extra hours because of increased costs to work and the loss of free school meals.

Under Universal Credit, whilst most out of work support remains the same, there are a few changes which are likely to cause significant problems for disabled people:

  • There is a very significant reduction in the financial support for seriously ill or disabled people who live on their own or just with dependent children and don’t have a carer.
  • Those who have income such as an occupational pension will be no better off as a result of having previously worked.

You can read the full Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) report at: ‘Rebalancing universal credit: Making it work for disabled people‘ (PDF).


Cath Stevenson (Chair) & Emmerson Walgrove (Deputy Chair) – Bradford & District Disabled People’s Forum



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