Read the new report from Citizens Advice explaining how the disability benefits system is broken.

Our new report, Disability benefits: lessons from the front line, details how the system has not adapted to a world where disability and ill health are more prevalent, and more complex in terms of the variation of impact on people’s lives or the support that could help. Despite rising caseloads, disabled people, and people with long-term health problems, are too often not getting the support they need.

We see every aspect of how the system as it stands is letting down disabled people who have to fight to access essential financial support. The people we help feel like the system is designed to deny them support, not to get them the help they need.

And so we have ended up in the worst of all worlds. The value of benefits is being driven down. Eligibility for what remains becomes ever narrower. This does not mean fewer disabled people: instead it means fewer disabled people are getting the support they need.

We need to genuinely modernise the system, and the way we think about it. The claims process needs to be aligned with wider NHS, care and employment support services that work with disabled people to tackle, as far as possible, the challenges and barriers they face.

The prize would be a system based on trust which removes complexity, and maintains financial support for disabled people, and people with long-term health problems, while aligning more effectively with wider services that could be useful to tackle challenges they face or enhance their employment prospects.

By learning from what the people we support are telling us about the system’s failings, this report begins to chart a better way forward. It outlines 10 key insights we have drawn from trying to help disabled people navigate the system as it stands:

  1. Disability benefits are crucial in protecting people from falling into the red
  2. Accessing support is vital for people with both mental and physical health conditions
  3. The claims process is lengthy and can involve an endless cycle of reassessment
  4. Disabled people have to navigate a complex system
  5. Poor decision-making adds to the fight for support
  6. The system is built around rigid processes rather than a whole-person approach
  7. For people who have no or limited capacity to work, their experience is often poor
  8. The reasons people find it difficult to start work are varied and complex
  9. People who can and want to work aren’t getting the support they need
  10. Navigating the system leaves people feeling defeated

The benefits system has been broken not by the disabled people who depend on it, but by a failure to tackle the barriers to people living independently and participating in the labour market when possible. Disability benefits, properly integrated into wider support processes, are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Read the full report here. There are also further insights from the evidence collected in this accompanying data pack.