There are many reasons people don’t receive these benefits. From not knowing they’re eligible to the savings and earnings conditions attached. The biggest problem with this is that you have to include your whole household’s income or savings, so if a disabled person’s partner or parents earn too much they are automatically disqualified.
Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter
This makes both incorrect and dangerous assumptions – firstly that one person’s income is enough for a family to live on but also that everyone lives with someone supportive who will provide for them.
I’m a fierce campaigner against means-tested benefits disqualifying disabled people from applying because of their partner’s income, as not having this extra income can leave disabled people vulnerable to abuse with no way out.
However, even if they are eligible, many go through the often dehumanising ESA assessment process to be deemed fit for work and not disabled enough by assessors with no knowledge of their conditions.
I may not be in the poorest part of the population but I don’t receive means-tested benefits as my husband is deemed as earning too much. I’m “lucky” to be in a loving relationship now where my husband puts the lion’s share towards the bills with my freelance income topping it up. However, if it wasn’t for my parents I would’ve been stuck in a previously controlling and abusive relationship because my ex-partner’s income was deemed too much.
I’ve previously written for The Big Issue about how disabled people are disproportionately affected in the cost of living crisis. This is because we require more energy, our food is more expensive often our homes or communities aren’t accessible so we have to make expensive adaptations.
The government, however, isn’t helping. Disabled people are starving because paying for the energy their life-saving equipment uses is more important to them. They can’t afford prescriptions of five items at £9.35 each when they could buy a couple of weeks of food with that £46.75 (at a pinch) and many of us aren’t receiving enough financial and lasting support.
This would be resolved if more people were able to receive “means-tested” benefits – but for that, the government would have to scrap the means-tested part and admit that all disabled people need support instead of forcing them into work that could kill them.
We need to reform who can apply for universal credit and ESA. Then we need to completely do away with the horrific assessments that serve more to prove how capable you are and not deserving of benefits. We also need a government that wants all disabled people to thrive, not just those who can financially contribute.
But I can’t see that happening any time soon.
Rachel Charlton-Dailey is a freelance writer and disability activist. They are the founding editor of The Unwritten, a publication for disabled people to share their authentic experiences.