"Tracking the lives of disabled families through the cuts..."

Following the Emergency Budget of June 2010, Demos and the disability charity Scope sought to explore how cuts to public spending would affect disabled Britain. We calculated how the welfare reforms announced in the Emergency Budget and in the run up to the Spending Review would affect five typical disabled families. Our research showed that, far from being protected from the worst of the cuts, disabled families across the country faced significant reductions in their household income. Losses of two to three thousand pounds over the course of the next parliament were typical and overall, we estimated that disabled people would lose £9 billion in welfare support in the next five years.

The numbers paint a bleak picture. But what is life like for Britain’s 10m disabled households and how is it changing as the cuts set in?

The Disability in Austerity Study is a longitudinal project, following five disabled families through the course of this parliament and tracking the impact of fiscal tightening on their lives.


 The families

Taking part in the study are:


A young disabled child (A) cared for by her mother and father

A is a four year-old girl, who lives in Lincolnshire. She is quadriplegic, has epilepsy and cerebral palsy. She lives with her parents and five other siblings - the youngest of whom is two. She and the other children are looked after by their mother, who cares for them full-time; as she has got older, her father has had to take more unpaid leave from work to help with caring responsibilities. 

 A disabled man (P) and his wife who cares for him and also has moderate disabilities

P is 50 and suffered a stroke in March 2006. He now has left-handed weakness, uses crutches often, had two heart defects and related surgery and his left leg often locks.  P also has memory loss. He was self-employed for 9 years but hasn’t been able to work since the stroke. He hopes to improve his employment prospects by doing a part-time distance learning course in psychology. P lives with his wife who is also his carer. His grown-up step-children live away from home. P’s wife was made redundant 2 years ago

 A single disabled man (E)

E is 48, separated, and lives alone in Scotland since separating from his wife. He has lifelong epilepsy which deteriorated in 2008. Before that we worked full time in a home and DIY shop. E has two children in their twenties.

 A single disabled woman (C)

C is 28 and is single. She lives in the south of England, renting her own place from a housing association. She has cerebral palsy and been a wheelchair user all her life.

 A middle-aged, disabled man (S) who is a social care service user

S is 48 and has MS (secondary progressive).  His MS has worsened over the last 5 years so he has been pensioned off (a third of his income) from work since 2005. S is married and his wife is a full time nurse. They have three adult boys, two at university and one who lives at home.


Demos has now published the final instalment of the study, Destination Unknown: Summer 2012. The report found that despite the drop in income and worsening conditions for each of our five families over the preceding two years, the deepest cuts were yet to take effect.

For more information about the Disability in Austerity study contact Claudia Wood.

Destination Unknown
Eugene Grant, Claudia Wood
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This pamphlet investigates the impact of the proposed welfare reform on disabled people.

Destination Unknown: Spring 2011
Claudia Wood, Eugene Grant
Publication Date
Publication Type

This pamphlet is the first report in a new tracking study, the Disability in Austerity study, which will follow five disabled families through the course of this Parliament.

Destination Unknown: Autumn 2011
Claudia Wood
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This report is the instalment of the Disability in Austerity study from Autumn 2011.

Coping with the Cuts
Claudia Wood, Phillida Cheetham , Tom Gregory
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This pamphlet accompanies the interactive cuts map, examining how local authorities' cuts to social care budgets are affecting disabled people.

Counting the Cost
Eugene Grant, Claudia Wood
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This pamphlet investigates the best way to measure the additional cost of disability, in light of the proposed changes to DLA.

Destination Unknown: Summer 2012
Claudia Wood
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The final instalment in our Disablity in Austerity study finds that for disabled people the worst of the cuts to benefits is yet to come.

Apr 9

Evidence-based campaigning

Claudia Wood applauds the Spartacus Network for their constructive critique of the welfare reform agenda.

Feb 19

Should welfare be a ‘moral mission’?

Claudia Wood calls for welfare reform based on a grasp of what works, not a crusade.

Mar 27

Destination Unknown: April 2013

Claudia Wood reveals the latest findings of our Disability in Austerity study, showing that disabled people stand to lose £28.3bn in benefits.

Dec 5

A sleight of hand

Claudia Wood reacts to the welfare changes announced in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement.

Aug 29

Mind the gap

Claudia Wood argues that the Paralympics will highlight the problems disabled people have accessing London's transport network.

Jul 31

Is the WCA fit for work?

Claudia Wood on the potential impact of last night's documentaries about the Work Capability Assessment.

Jun 21

The human cost of welfare reform

Claudia Wood introduces the final instalment of the Disability in Austerity study.

May 17

The pressure is on

Following Liam Byrne's speech to Demos, Claudia Wood looks at the challenge the Labour has set itself on disability and welfare.

Mar 7

The problems at Remploy

Claudia Wood outlines the tricky path from Remploy to re-employment.

Feb 20

Experience can work

Claudia Wood says the Government is undermining work experience as a valuable way to get people into jobs.

Jan 9

Byrne, Beveridge and welfare myths

Claudia Wood is disappointed at Liam Byrne's recent attack on welfare claimants.

Dec 2

How are our six disabled families coping with the cuts?

Claudia Wood describes the latest findings of our Disability in Austerity tracking study.

Sep 12

Coping with Cuts to Disability Services

Claudia Wood explains Demos' new interactive map showing cuts to disability services.

Jul 4

Who's rushing on disability?

Claudia Wood looks at accusations of unneccessary haste on disability benefit reforms.

Jun 10

Principles or practicalities for disabled jobseekers?

Claudia Wood asks how possible ending segregated employment is in the current economic climate.

May 30

What does 'fit to work' actually mean?

Claudia Wood looks at how changing definitions impact on how we view benefit claimants.

May 24

Councils in the dock over disability

Claudia Wood warns councils may be tempted to cut the services least likely to get them sued.

May 9

What does disability in austerity feel like?

Claudia Wood writes about our latest report tracking five disabled families through the cuts.

Apr 28

“399 fiddlers!” doesn’t make such a good headline

Claudia Wood clears up dodgy reporting of stats on welfare claimants.

Oct 23

If you’re disabled, it’s not just Lord Freud who holds you in contempt

The Guardian covers the findings by Demos on the impact of disability benefit cuts.

Jul 10

How do cuts impact on disabled people?

Demos' Deputy Director writes on disability welfare for the Independent's Voices section.

Jun 22

Disabled people hit especially hard by the cuts, finds report

Patrick Butler writes in the Guardian about the disability cuts drawing from our report 

Jun 22

Disability: the missing £500 million

Claudia Wood discusses disability cuts in Public Finance.

Apr 12

Remploy staff reject disabled segregation

Claudia Wood is quoted in a Guardian article which looks at Remploy factory closures.