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Disabled people to lose cold weather payments

a person holding out their hands wearing gloves next to thermometer measuring freezing temperature

Thousands of disabled people could be stripped of cold weather payments according to a leaked report under the Conservative’s post-election disability benefit reforms.

If the Tory’s stay in power it is believed people with disabilities will only qualify for the payment if they pass a more vigorous assessment than the one currently in place.

A briefing from the Department for Work and Pensions leaked to the Observer states: “We recognise that this recommendation will result in fewer low-income people being eligible for [cold weather payments].”

The document goes on to say a percentage of higher-income people will be eligible to claim the payment.

Cold weather payments worth £25 are paid out every weekend between November and March when the temperature drops to freezing for people claiming certain benefits.

Disabled people of a working-age currently qualify for the Work Capability Assessment [WCA], but the benefit is set to be scrapped in October if the Conservatives win the next general election.

In its place universal credit disability payment will be given to people on Personal Independence Payment [PIP].

Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against Cuts told The Guardian: “This is further proof of the brutal impacts that the government’s proposed overhaul of the disability benefits system will have on disabled people unable to earn an adequate income through paid employment, yet consigned to poverty through denial of social security payments.

“Many disabled people are unable to work full-time hours and are much more likely to be in low-paid employment than non-disabled people.”

The changes will not affect individuals currently receiving disability benefits until at least 2029, but thousands of disabled people who would have qualified for the cold weather payment may lose out when the new system comes into effect from 2026.

Peter Smith, director of National Energy Action, said: “The additional energy costs faced by households with long-term disabilities is well evidenced, as is the mental and physical strain this brings.

“If these changes are made and eligibility is narrowed, the impact could be life-threatening – with fewer very vulnerable households able to access this lifeline during exceptionally cold weather or made to jump through ever more hoops.

“The UK government should be looking to increase support for energy bills for the most vulnerable, not restricting it for people who desperately need help.”

The DWP is recommending other departments in the government apply the same changes in eligibility to benefits such as warm home discounts, free childcare and healthcare costs, but disabled people may be able to qualify for these through other avenues.

The DWP said: “While we do not comment on speculation, we have been clear that our structural reforms will be rolled out gradually from 2026 and transitional protection will ensure nobody experiences a financial loss at the point of moving onto the new system. We will always ensure our welfare system supports the most vulnerable, having made over 1.1m cold weather payments this winter, and will set out full details on any further reforms in due course.”

[ The DWP said, as of February 2023, there were 850,000 claimants who qualified for benefit through the Work Capability Assessment and did not have a Personal Independence Payment. ]

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