A BARROW organisation which supports Furness residents with disabilities has ‘brought more than £10 million into the town’ through appealing welfare injustices over the past decade.

Margaret Burrow, Barrow and District Disability Association CEO, revealed the extent of the aid the charity has provided to the community this week.

Working with the town’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Age UK and other organisations, the charity helps support those with disabilities by helping them access benefits and support services.

Mrs Burrow believes the impact of Covid-19 on the town’s disabled community had been devastating.

A quarter of Furness residents have a disability of some kind, according to the last census.

This is double the average rate across the country - which is between 10 and 12 per cent, with around two per cent having their mobility seriously impacted or limited by the disability.

The disability champion and Barrovian said the demand for her charity’s services in recent years had been ‘greater than anticipated,' pointing to the impact of welfare reforms under successive Conservative administrations.

“Going to a tribunal can be very daunting for our members," Mrs Burrows told The Mail. "But we always, always advise people to seek professional legal advice.

“We’ve helped several thousand people since setting up. We’re totally self-funded - we need to be in order to be independent and to take on the establishment.

“The impact of these reforms since 2010 has been much greater than anticipated.

“Sometimes I don’t know if the Government understands the long-term impact of Universal Credit and of the broader welfare reforms of the past decade on disabled people - especially people for whom it’s difficult to prove their disability.”

Last month, a cross-party report found that Universal Credit would require a gigantic £8 billion overhaul to make it reliable for the millions of families who are increasingly likely to depend on it as the Covid-19 crisis deepens.

Iain Duncan Smith - who was an architect of the policy, having been Secretary of State for Work and Pensions between 2010 and 2016 - also told the work and pensions select committee in July that the five-week wait for claimants' first payment under Universal Credit was 'never originally part of the structural plan' for the controversial welfare reform.

However, he argued that he would not favour an overhaul for his party's welfare reform at present, saying: "My general view is I would do nothing on this score to change it at this particular stage, but can it be changed?

"The answer is yes, because it was a policy element, a decision made."

Barrow mayor, Kevin Hamilton, also spoke of some of the difficulties town residents have had trying to claim Universal Credit: “In May, a private hire driver in Barrow was told he was the 7,000th in line on the telephone,” he said.

“The next day, he rang up and there were still several hundred applications ahead of him on the line. This gives you just some idea of the difficulties folk in need of welfare support here are having with the system.

“With libraries having been shut, it’s been extra tough for people in the town.

“Not everybody’s got a laptop in Barrow. And you try doing a Universal Credit claim on a mobile phone - it’s impossible.”

Barrow MP, Simon Fell, who has defended Universal Credit in the past, was approached by The Mail for comment but had not responded at the time of publication.