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Disabled people’s experiences of the benefits system: Committee publishes Government-commissioned research

3 February 2022

The Work and Pensions Committee has used parliamentary powers to publish a Government-commissioned report into disabled people’s experiences of the benefits system that the DWP had consistently refused to make public.

The report The Uses of Health and Disability Benefits was received by the Government in September 2020. It followed a research project led by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), which interviewed disabled people about their experiences of receiving PIP, ESA and Universal Credit. It reveals that people who did not have income outside the benefits system “reported that they were often unable to meet essential day to day living costs”, such as food, rent and heating.

The Government Social Research Publication Protocol, in place since 2015, states that research of this kind should be published “no more than 12 weeks following agreement of final outputs”.

In December, the Secretary of State was given one final chance to reconsider her decision not to publish the research. Following her refusal, the Committee ordered NatCen to hand over the report for publication.

Chair's comment

Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “The report gives a valuable insight into the experiences of people claiming health and disability benefits. While the system is working for some, we now know that others reported that they are still unable to meet essential living costs such as food and utility bills.

By persisting in its decision to hide away evidence of the struggles people are facing, the DWP will only have further harmed its reputation with disabled people at a time when - as its own officials have acknowledged - lack of trust is a major issue. In order to rebuild its relationship with disabled people, the DWP must stop trying to bury uncomfortable truths.”

The Committee’s report in July on the disability employment gap included a section on DWP’s relationship with disabled people. It cited a report from the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) which revealed that DWP officials acknowledged that lack of trust towards the Department from disabled people was ‘a major issue’.

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright