28 – Adequate standard of living and social protection


There has been significant retrogression with respect to the right to an adequate standard of living due to welfare reform measures put in place by the UK. The human rights of disabled people have been negatively impacted by:

  • reforms and removal of financial disability benefit supports;[1]
  • declining employment rights and insecurity;[2]
  • reforms of welfare generally, putting England at a below subsistence benefit levels described as ‘manifestly inadequate’ in the context of Europe[3]; and
  • a withdrawal of services and severe cuts in social care.[4]


The above are combined with decreasing real wages[5]; increasing costs of food, water, fuel[6], and transport[7]. As disabled people also face additional costs of living they are more likely to fall below 60% of median income levels into poverty[8] .

Figures for the use of food banks increased from 61,468 in 2010 to 913,138 in 2013/14. The main key reasons for this are benefit delays and benefit changes, followed by low income in work.[9] Women, children and disabled people have been particularly adversely affected by an increase in food insecurity.[10]

The change from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) (aimed to recognise the additional costs of disability) to Personal independence Payment (PIP) means 607,000 fewer (28% reduction) people will receive PIP than would have got DLA (according to government’s own figures[11]). Government has said that 428,000 people will be removed from the enhanced rate of the PIP mobility component.[12] This will have a severe negative impact on the standard of living of those affected and on the realisation of a range of other Convention rights.

Since 2010 criteria and testing for access to key welfare benefits has become harsher. Two thirds (65%) of disabled people surveyed felt that assessors did not understand their condition.[13] More than three quarters (78 per cent) of disabled people said their health got worse as a result of the stress caused by benefit assessment processes.[14] There has been an outcry at the tests by MPs[15] and media[16] because of the harm and distress they are causing, including suicides[17]. While nearly 40 per cent of Work Capability Assessment (WCA) appeals are successful (with a third of those successful appeals involving no new evidence[18]), 70% to 95% have been successful with representation.[19] Some people report to DPOs that they drop out of the system, rather than going through the added stress of an appeal. In addition, public inquiries have continually criticised the WCA process for getting assessments wrong.[20]

Since April 2013 the time-limiting of ESA came into force for those in the work related activity group (WRAG) receiving contributory ESA with their payments limited to just 52 weeks. It is estimated that 700,000 disabled people will lose £4.4 billion by 2018 of ESA due to this new regulation.[21]

There have been no effective steps taken to quell the increased impacts of poverty on disabled people, no obvious safeguards put in place, no monitoring to assess the impacts of reforms by Government. Think tanks, universities and local authorities have carried out cumulative impact assessments which show significantly higher impacts on disabled people compared to other groups, yet Government has repeatedly refused to assess just the cumulative impact of Welfare Benefit changes.[22]

Access to public housing programs is restricted by the severe lack of accessible properties[23], by a lack of will of authorities to carry out adaptations, and by the ‘bedroom tax’ whereby individuals are charged for extra bedrooms. This can happen for those who use an extra room for a ‘carer’ or for equipment. Nearly three quarters of those affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ are disabled people.

Universal Credit (UC) is a new benefit that has started to replace 6 existing benefits claimed by disabled people with a single monthly payment. Disabled people will lose under Universal Credit, for instance:

  • up to 116,000 disabled people who work will be at risk of losing around £40 a week;[24]
  • 230,000 severely disabled people who live alone, or with only a young carer – usually lone parents with school age children – will get between £28 and £58 less in benefits every week;[25]
  • 100,000 disabled children stand to lose up to £28 a week;[26] and
  • independent research has found that 446,000 disabled people will lose £2.2 billion by 2018 due to the introduction of Universal Credit.[27]

[1] Demos (2013), Destination Unknown http://www.demos.co.uk/blog/destinationunknownapril2013

[2] http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/contracts-with-no-guaranteed-hours/zero-hours-contracts/art-zero-hours.html#tab-conclusions

[3] Council of Europe, Monitoring the European Social Charter, http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/socialcharter/Conclusions/State/UKXX2_en.pdf

[4] PSSRU 2013, Changes in the Patterns of Social Care Provision 2005/6 to 2012/13 http://www.pssru.ac.uk/archive/pdf/dp2867.pdf

[5] Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2013), Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/MPSE2013.pdf

[6] http://www.york.ac.uk/media/spsw/documents/research-and-publications/Snell-Bevan-Thomson-EAGA-Charitable-Trust-Fuel-Poverty-And-Disabled-People-Summary.pdf

[7] Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2013), Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion, p. 22. http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/MPSE2013.pdf

[8] Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2004), Disabled Peoples Living Costs, http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/disabled-peoples-costs-living

[9] http://www.trusselltrust.org/stats

[10] Just Fair (2013), Going Hungry; The Human Right to Food in the UK, http://just-fair.co.uk/hub/single/going_hungry_the_human_right_to_food_in_the_uk/

[11] Personal Independence Payment Regulations 2013, http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06538.pdf

[12] Personal Independence Payment Regulations 2013, http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06538.pdf‎

[13] http://www.rnib.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/hardest-hit/Pages/HH_TippingPoint.aspx

[14] http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news/contract-management-of-medical-services/

[15] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120904/halltext/120904h0001.htm


[16] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/jun/20/mental-health-benefit-claimants-risk http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/investigations/2012/04/32-die-a-week-after-failing-in.html

[17] http://www.scribd.com/doc/149781564/Dpac-Report-Atos-Wca-Factfile, section 12.1

[19] Maidstone CAB ‘wins 95% of work test benefit appeals, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-19436358

[20] http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news/contract-management-of-medical-services/

[21] http://www.demos.co.uk/press_releases/destinationunknownapril2013

[22] Column 470 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140227/debtext/140227-0003.htm

Column 443 & 446

Evaluation of the London Accessible Housing Register 2011, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130710/debtext/130710-0002.htm

[23] http://www.sbe.hw.ac.uk/documents/Evaluation_of_the_LAHR_March_2011.pdf

[24] http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/holes_safety_net.htm

[25] http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/holes_safety_net.htm

[26] http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/holes_safety_net.htm

[27] http://www.demos.co.uk/press_releases/destinationunknownapril2013