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2014 National Disabled Members' Conference
3 July 2014

We condemn the Government’s Welfare Reforms and the resulting impact of the policies on our members. Many members are reliant on welfare due to poverty wages, pay freezes and cuts to their terms and conditions. This has driven many into the arms of loan sharks and payday loan companies.

Millions of disabled workers are reliant on benefits even though they are working. Welfare reform changes that are taking place will inevitably lead to increased poverty for a group of people already among the poorest in society.

Disabled people are at the forefront of the Government’s welfare reform changes. They will experience substantial detriment as they will be affected by many of the proposed changes which include

• changes to incapacity benefit

• the 1% cap on benefit rises

• the Bedroom Tax

• introduction of Personal Independent payment

• abolition of Independent Living Fund

• change to Local Housing Allowance

• uprating and cuts to Tax Credits

• localisation and 10% cut for Council Tax Benefit

Disabled people will also be affected by the Government’s changes to the Working Tax Credit (WTC). The disability element of the Working Tax Credit (WTC) recognises that many disabled people have a reduced earning potential and are unable to work full time as a result of their health condition or impairment. They also frequently face extra costs that can’t be met by schemes such as Access to Work. Currently the disability element of the WTC is payable to those who are working at least 16 hours per week. WTC will not be available under Universal Credit for anyone found “fit for work”. 116,000 families will no longer receive the disability element of the working tax credit.

Credit Unions will be a vital resource for members hit the hardest with the Welfare Reforms. The UNISON Credit Union network includes 40 credit unions covering most regions of the UK, however, to access this service you have to live or work in the area where they are based. This means that many people won’t have access to this service and may be forced to turn to pay-day lenders to help with their drop in income.

Conference therefore calls upon the National Disabled Members’ Committee, working with the relevant UNISON structures to:

1)Raise awareness of the damage Welfare reforms are causing our members.

2)Promote UNISON Worth-it campaign to make sure fair pay is at the top of the agenda.

3)Promote Credit Unions as an alternative to payday lenders, involving branch equality and branch disability officers in this process.

4)Lobby councils to remove the scourge of payday lending and betting shops from our high streets.

5)Encourage Regions to organise a briefing specifically on Welfare Reform to include someone from UNISON’s registered charity “There for You” and a Credit Union to they can demonstrate the benefits of both organisations to our members.