Eight-year-old Finley has always had things tough. He has autism and a bowel condition, and is scared by crowds and noise. Finley’s mum, Lisa, is disabled and does the best she can, but the costs are colossal. Finley’s special nappies alone cost £60 a month. Since Lisa became too ill to work, social security has been their lifeline – from specialist food to keep Finley healthy to therapy toys to make him less anxious.
Then universal credit came in. The inbuilt six-week wait stopped the family’s only income – “[It] left me with literally no money in that time,” Lisa says – and her benefits now vary month to month.
What’s more, under universal credit, disabled kids like Finley are seeing their child disability payment cut in half – that’s a loss of more than £1,750 a year – and Lisa has had to start using her own disability benefits to top up Finley’s.
The family car recently broke down and they were housebound as they saved to fix it. Respite care for Finley – a precious breather for both him and Lisa – has ended. Even Christmas has to be rationed.
“We’ve had to limit Finley’s expectations about Christmas, saying that Santa will bring one or two presents this year,” Lisa says. “We’re not taking him to see Santa in the runup to Christmas because we can’t afford it.”
Who is the “we” here? And why isn’t the other part of the “we”‘s income included in the calculations?