Up to half a million disabled people and their families will be worse off under the new Universal Credit benefits system if current plans go ahead, according to a new report.
Universal Credit, due to be introduced in October 2013, aims to simplify the benefits system by replacing a range of benefits and tax credits with a single payment.
But an inquiry led by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, and supported by The Children’s Society, Citizens Advice and Disability Rights UK found that 100,000 disabled children stand to lose up to £28 a week under the new system.
According to the report, up to 230,000 severely disabled people who do not have another adult to assist them stand to lose between £28 and £58 in support every week, while 116,000 working disabled people are at risk of losing £40 per week from help towards additional costs of being disabled.
One in ten families with disabled children affected by the changes said they feared losing their homes.
To cope with the changes, eighty per cent of disabled adults living alone or with a young carer said they would cut back on food, while 80 per cent said they would cut back on the amount they spend on heating.
Although Universal Credit was intended to make work pay, the inquiry found that the changes could make it harder for disabled people to remain in work.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said: "The findings of this report do not make easy reading. The clear message is that many households with disabled people are already struggling to keep their heads above water.
"Reducing support for families with disabled children, disabled people who are living alone, families with young carers and disabled people in work risks driving many over the edge in future."
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children's Society's said: "This inquiry has lifted the lid on the stark reality that many disabled people will face when the new benefits system comes into force.
"While it is true that some people will be better off under Universal Credit, it is shocking that so many disabled people – including children – will have to cut back on food, specialist equipment and, in some cases, be forced to move out of their homes or consider moving their child into full time residential care."
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said the report was "highly selective and could result in irresponsible scaremongering."
He said: "Our reforms will create a simpler and fairer system with aligned levels of support for adults and children. More importantly, there will be no cash losers in the rollout of Universal Credit."