Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis has suggested Rishi Moneybags is“giving with one hand and taking away with the other” after the chancellor announced those receiving disability benefits would be handed £150 in extra support – just as hundreds of thousands of disabled people are being cut off from the warm home discount scheme.
Almost 300,000 disabled people are losing government help to lower their fuel costs, with tighter eligibility rules removing the flagship discount from the claimants of a clutch of disability benefits, because their incomes are judged to be too high.
But in Thursday’s cost-of-living announcement, Mr Moneybags said disabled people who were facing “extra costs in their day-to-day lives”, would be sent, from September, an extra one-off disability cost-of-living payment worth £150 – worth a total of £900m.
Echoing criticism from charities, Mr Lewis asked the chancellor: “Are you giving with one hand and taking away with another?”
Mr Moneybags replied: “The warm home discount scheme operates completely separately from everything else that I have announced today.”
Mr Lewis said: “No, but there has been a change, so that people with disabilities are being removed from it, so you’re giving them £150 but they’re losing the warm home discount.”
Mr Moneybags replied: “In aggregate, what is happening with the warm home discount is that it is being expanded by, I think, about 700,000 people.”
Responding to the chancellor, Mr Lewis said the “net gain for these people is zero” and urged him to look again at the policy.
Ministers argue the shake-up of the warm home scheme will better target fuel poverty, delivering help to an extra 160,000 people with a long-term illness or disability – while hiking payments by £10 to £150.
But they have rejected pleas to continue help for claimants of disability living allowance (DLA) and personal independence payments (PIP), regardless of income, because they all face higher living costs.
Disability charities have warned that the measures outlined by the chancellor on Thursday do not go far enough, particularly with the loss of the warm home discount.
Gemma Hope, director of policy at Leonard Cheshire, said: “While we certainly welcome the measures announced today, the truth of the matter is they really only offer short term solutions to a long-term problem.
“The reality is that over half a million disabled people are already living off just £10 a week after bills.
“And when you take into account impending energy price increases later this year, and the fact that thousands of disabled people are set to lose their warm home discount in the Autumn, already stretched budgets will have to go even further. It just isn’t viable.”