22 Oct 2014

IDS: ‘We spend more on disabled than most countries’

Why should disabled people feel hard done by? Welfare Secretary Iain Duncan Smith says the UK probably spends more on the disabled and sick “than almost any other country in the developed world”.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy suggested to Iain Duncan Smith that disabled people felt “hard done by” because of the so-called bedroom tax and his colleague Lord Freud’s remark that some disabled people were “not worth” the minimum wage.

He replied: “Let’s be absolutely clear about what we spend on disability benefits. We probably spend more on disabled and sick people in Britain – which is, I think, an excellent thing – but we probably spend more than almost any other country in the developed world, We spend nearly double what Germany spends.”

‘World leader’

Former disabilities minister Esther McVey said in February 2013 that the UK spent £50bn every year “on support and benefits for disabled people, and we will continue to do so”.

She added: “We are a world leader in this field. We spend a fifth more than Europe, double America, six times Japan.”

Following her comments, the Department for Work and Pensions received a freedom of information request asking for a breakdown of the £50bn figure.

The department responded with figures showing that total spending in 2012/13 was forecast to be £49bn, with the largest amounts spent on adult social care (£15.4bn), disability living allowance (£13.6bn) and employment and support allowance (£5.6bn).

It also included statistics from the OECD on disability spending as a percentage of gross domestc product in 2009. The figures show that the UK spent 2.4 per cent, compared with 1.4 per cent in the EU, 1 per cent in the US, and 0.4 per cent in Japan.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that the government spent £36bn on benefits for disabled and sick people in 2013-14 (its figures do not include adult social care).

‘Life costs more’

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said: “Life costs more if you’re disabled. Scope research shows that this adds up to on average £550 per month. Costs are spiralling, wages are flat lining and many are experiencing cuts to their support.

“Some disabled people are even being forced to turn to high-risk, high-cost credit and loans just to make ends meet. The personal independence payment (PIP) is the financial lifeline that disabled people rely on to live independently and meet these extra costs.

“The chancellor has pledged that a future Conservatives government will protect disability benefits. It’s vital that all parties commit to protecting PIP.”