New study of pensioner poverty warns against plan to scrap national disability benefits system

A new in-depth report into the relationship between disability and poverty among older people living in the UK, by Professor Stephen Pudney with Professor Ruth Hancock and Dr Marcello Morciano from the University of East Anglia, has found the current system is falling short of support for those most in need, and considers alternative directions of reform for the system of public support.

The report, Disability and Poverty in Later Life, commissioned and published by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, makes a case for tailoring the structure of disability benefits more closely to the severity of disability, but warns of caution against current proposals to scrap national disability benefits in favour of local authority social care funding.

The report finds that effective targeting of support does not necessarily require an extension of means-testing and that the present benefit and social care system is already well targeted but is falling far short of providing full support for those most in need.

Professor Steve Pudney said:

“Britain currently has a dual system of public support for older disabled people. Central government pays disability benefits (mainly Attendance Allowance and Disability Living
Allowance), while local authorities manage the provision of social care services. The two systems
are quite separate and have little overlap, and it is sometimes suggested that they should be
merged into a single system of disability support. While this sounds neater and may save some
administrative costs, it runs the risk that many more people than at present may miss out on
government support completely. We think it is too big a risk to take with such a vulnerable

The present system of social care/disability benefit is quite good at using limited resources to
minimise the number of older disabled people in poverty. But it is much less effective in
protecting people from very deep poverty. The people most affected by this are those with
severe disability (and therefore high disability costs), especially those who are unaware of, or not
able to negotiate, the systems for claiming help with their care needs.”

Register for our event with Age UK: Not the Golden Age of Old: new research on older people living in the UK, to be held in Westminster on 8 November.


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