A blind man sitting with his dog

A quarter of blind and partially sighted people miss out on their disability benefits

New research from the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, produced for RNIB, reveals that more than one in four blind and partially sighted people (83,000) miss-out on the disability benefits they’re entitled to.

Applications being refused and issues with submitting applications were key factors in the substantial deficit in the take-up of disability benefits among people who are registered blind or partially sighted.

Poor communication from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the challenge of getting to face-to-face appointments were also cited as barriers in the research.

Juliet Stone, Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, said: “We know that blind and partially sighted people face multiple barriers to applying for benefits, including a lack of tailored support in the application process, and negative perceptions of the social security system.

“Our research has highlighted the importance of addressing these shortcomings, with tens of thousands of blind or partially sighted people missing out on disability benefits to which they are entitled.

“Improving uptake of benefits is not a straightforward task, but without addressing the structural and practical obstacles to claiming disability benefits, thousands of blind and partially sighted people in the UK will remain vulnerable to financial hardship.”

Key research findings

  • The risk of missing out on disability benefits is highest for those aged 16-44 years old, with 6,000 people in this age group not receiving any disability benefits
  • In the 16-44 age bracket, 44 per cent of blind and partially sighted people from minority ethnic groups are estimated not to receive the disability benefits they’re entitled to, compared with 23 per cent of white blind and partially sighted people in the same age bracket
  • Men overall in all age brackets are at greater risk of not receiving the disability benefits they’re entitled to, with 28 per cent of men not receiving them, compared with 22 per cent in women
  • 41 per cent of blind and partially sighted people in a low-income household are estimated to be missing out on disability benefits, compared with just 16 per cent in higher income households
  • The risk of missing out on disability benefits is highest for blind and partially sighted people in employment, with 69 per cent for men and 44 per cent for women not receiving them

In RNIB’s experience, people with sight loss in employment are also susceptible to barriers caused by welfare stigma and internalised guilt in claiming benefits while in work.

“Blind and partially sighted people from ethnic minorities are more likely to face multiple barriers to receiving benefits, including potential language barriers and a lack of knowledge and experience regarding the social security system.

New analysis also found benefit claimants can experience confusion about how disability benefit award decisions are made, what evidence is required and the timings at each stage of a benefit application.

Roisin Jacklin, RNIB Policy Officer, said: “Disability benefits are available to people with sight loss partly to help with the extra costs associated with disability. We urgently need a fairer and clearer benefit system so blind and partially sighted people don’t miss out and get the disability benefits they’re entitled when they initially apply.

“If you think you, a relative or friend with sight loss could be missing out, RNIB can support you. Our easy-to-use calculator and factsheets can help you work out the disability benefits you're entitled to and where to access support to claim them. We’re also here to support you if your application has been refused.”

Permjit Bhachu, aged 56 from Birmingham has Retinal Dystrophy, and worked in the arts and heritage sector for 26 years, said: “The benefits system needs to be streamlined and maybe the DWP need to change the benefit system and make it more accessible. At the moment I think that the system is ineffective.

“I rang up RNIB’s Helpline and got in touch with the welfare rights team and they helped me navigate the system, going through my finances and told me about the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - and I haven't looked back ever since.

“My PIP form was due to expire, and they explained it to me every clearly and concisely, helping me fill out the disability benefits application. Without their support, I don't know what I would have done.

“It can feel like DWP are treating us as third-party citizens when we try and claim our benefits – I’ve spoken to disability ministers and expressed all these views. These things must be addressed, uncomfortable as they are. I’ve got a disability but it's not going to define me and I’m eligible to receive what I’m entitled to.”


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 24/51

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

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