Health and Wellbeing
Top 10 European Countries With the Highest Disabled Populations - How Do Their Benefits Stack Up?
More than a billion people are living with problems related to a disability, that’s about 15% of the world’s population. The World Bank estimates that 20% of the poorest people have a disability and they are often regarded in their communities to be the most disadvantaged. What’s more, statistics reveal that these numbers are steadily increasing.
Five EU Member States (Germany, France, Italy, Poland and Spain) share about 62.7% (about 55 million) of the EU disability population, aged 16 and over living in private households.
Oak Tree has studied the data from the top 10 European countries with the highest disabled populations and discovered just how well the UK’s benefits stacks up in comparison.
Disability Benefits in the UK
The UK has the highest percentage (21.7%) of people with a disability in Europe and comes in 6th place on the leaderboard for the highest monthly disability allowance.
While every European nation offers some financial assistance, either in the form of a benefit, or pension scheme, the UK has some of the best additional benefits for disabled individuals. As the UK is also one of the only countries with a National Health Service, any treatment relating to disabilities is often free and ultimately far cheaper than the rest of Europe.
If you’re living in the UK and have a disability, you could be entitled to the following:
- £679.90 per month on average
- Up to 100% council tax discount
- Winter fuel payments up to £300
- £140 warm home discount scheme - discount on gas or electricity bills
- WaterSure scheme to cap your water bills
- Disabled facilities grant to modify homes between £25,000 - £36,000
- Free bus pass
- Blue Badge scheme, allowing for free parking
- Motability scheme, where you trade some or all of enhanced mobility component towards the cost of a vehicle
- Up to a third off rail tickets with a disabled person's railcard
- Vehicle tax exemption
You can check the gov.uk to calculate just how much you could be entitled to. You are also able to arrange a home assessment with your local council to determine what free mobility equipment you may be entitled to.
The Best Disability Benefits Across the Rest of Europe
Oak Tree has collated the most notable benefits that disabled people may be entitled to across the top ten European countries with the highest populations with disabilities. Our research revealed that the Nordic countries and Switzerland offer the most generous compensation policies to persons with disabilities, and Poland offers the fewest benefits.
EU citizens are entitled to a disability card, which ensures equal access to benefits across EU participating countries. However, there is no mutual recognition of disability status across European states. This means that there are additional barriers for people with disabilities as their national disability cards may not be recognised in the other Member States.
So, how do these top 10 countries stack up in comparison to one another? Let’s find out.
1st - Switzerland
Switzerland offers the highest monthly support in the EU, providing its disabled citizens (1.8 million) with an average monthly disability allowance of £7,149.55.
In Switzerland, residents are required to have a compulsory social insurance scheme, Swiss Disability Insurance (DI). Swiss citizens contribute 0.7% of their salaries to DI. The purpose of the scheme is to guarantee the livelihoods of all insured persons who may become disabled by providing rehabilitation measures or a pension.
- £7,149.55 on average
- Ranges from 1,195 to 2,390 Swiss francs per month.
- Provided that you can demonstrate 3 years of contributions to your DI, if you become incapacitated and can only work 40% for 1 year and are still disabled at the end of that year, you are entitled to the invalidity pension.
- You can apply for this pension from the age of 18 up to retirement age.
- Switzerland offers a personal assistance allowance that is calculated by the hours required for care, of which there is a maximum cap.
- Children under 18 with severe disabilities who require on average at least 4 hours of care per day are entitled, under certain conditions, to additional support. This is calculated based on the level of support required.
2nd - Norway
Just over 1 in 10 people living in Norway have a disability and they come in second place in the monthly allowance leaderboard, giving their citizens an average of £2,561.19 in Monthly Disability Allowance. Norway offers disability benefits as a universal right, in contrast to many other countries that only offer benefits to those in the labour market. In addition to their disability allowance, there is means-tested support for each child in families in which a parent is the recipient of disability benefits.
- £2,561.19 per month on average
- Benefits are calculated based on the average of the best 3 financial years out of the last 5 years before you became disabled. The benefit is equivalent to 66% of this figure.
- If a person has not lost their entire earning capacity, the disability benefit is graded. For example, if you have an earning capacity of 30%, you will receive a 70% disability benefit.
- Additional financial support to pay for home care
- Citizens may be able to receive support to make accessibility adjustments for their homes
- Help with paying for taxis and other travel
3rd - Denmark
Disability pensions are means-tested in Denmark and there are housing allowances that may be added to pensions. Their disability allowance system is relatively similar to that of Norway. The Danish benefits are calculated based on the average of the best 3 financial years out of the last 5 years before you became disabled and the benefit is equivalent to 66% of this figure.
The Denmark disability pension is granted permanent and then once the recipient reaches pensionable age, it will be replaced with the old-age pension.
- £2,198.5 per month on average
- The Denmark disability pension amounts to DKK 19,331 per month for single persons and DKK 16,432 for a recipient with a spouse or partner.
- Like Norway, if a person has not lost their entire earning capacity, the disability benefit is graded. For example, if you have an earning capacity of 30%, you will receive a 70% disability benefit.
- Personal care support
- Practical home help
- Meal service
4th - France
France comes in at 4th place, receiving an astounding 96.6% less than Denmark in 3rd place. The French disability allowance is known as the Allowance for Disabled Adults (AAH).
- £751.71 on average per month
- The allowance for disabled adults is €900 per month. AAH is a minimum income awarded to people over 20 years old with severe disabilities rated by the Committee for the Rights and Self-dependency of Disabled Persons (CDAPH).
- Interestingly, the maximum AAH has an annual income cap of €11,000 for a person living alone and approximately €20,000 for couples.
- Parents who are looking after disabled children who are living at home are also entitled to disability benefits. This income is means-tested and dependent on the severity of the child’s disability. These benefits help to cover the costs of employed carers and education.
5th - Sweden
Sweden provides a base rate of disability income per month in addition to several additional cost allowances. Swedish citizens receive a basic guaranteed allowance for those with very low, or no income. There is also a second allowance that is based on previous earnings before becoming disabled.
- £223.50 per month on average
- If you have a disability and are still able to work and require assistive devices, you or your employer can apply for an allowance to cover the costs of the devices.
- Self-employed people can apply for granted occupational aids. This support can be received until you turn 68 years old.
- Car allowance. The basic allowance maximum is SEK 30,000 (£2414.52) per year.
- If you become disabled through a car accident or a similar event, you may be able to claim financial assistance for home adjustments to make living more accessible. These include widening areas for wheelchair access or moving the bedroom from the upper floors to the ground floor.
6th - United Kingdom
7th - Germany
The percentage of people living in Germany is over 50% less than that of the UK. The 7.9 million people in Germany living with a disability must pay toward any funding that they receive, unlike in the UK. Similar to other countries in Europe, the German disability pension ceases at the normal retirement age at which point it is replaced by the old-age pension.
Disability Allowance (Disability Pension)
- £626.3 per month on average
- Housing benefits of up to €1,500
- Free public transport
- Support with taxi fares to encourage and enable participation in ‘normal’ life
- Families with young children may receive a sibling bonus of 10%
- Free health treatment via the nationwide health insurance scheme - however, they must have been paying for the scheme before their disability.
- In addition to being included on their parent’s insurance, disabled children and students are entitled to support including wheelchair access and even a sign interpreter in certain circumstances.
- People with severe disabilities may receive additional allowances and employment protection
- Those on ALG II (unemployment benefits) may also be able to receive extra allowances if they have specific health needs. For example, orthopaedic shoes and other materials are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
8th - Spain
Just over 5% of the population in Spain identifies as having a disability, the lowest percentage on our leaderboard. The Spanish government provides a selection of non-contributory benefits for those who do not have enough income to live on and have not paid in contributions to the Spanish pension system. The non-contributory invalidity pension supports those with disabilities and insufficient means to have the day-to-day essentials that they require.
- £533.92 per month on average
- The minimum monthly disability pension is €639.30 for a single person without dependents.
- €606.70 minimum for those with a non-dependent spouse
- €788.90 minimum for those with a dependent spouse.
- If you have a child under 18 that has what would be classified as being incapacitated due to a disability to 33%, you would be entitled to an annual payment.
9th - Italy
In Italy, there are X of people with a disability. Interestingly and unlike many other countries in the EU, benefits for disabled people are recalculated every year following inflation and the cost of living.
- £236.82 on average
- Italian citizens with a disability are eligible to receive tax breaks on goods that may support accessibility. For example, specialised vehicles or home adjustments.
- Home assistance and care
- Access to care facilities where people can receive board, medical and nursing care
- Support for education and training
- Preferential recruitment with public and private companies
10th - Poland
Poland comes in at the bottom of the leaderboard with those at the top, living in Switzerland, receiving 3265% more than Polish citizens. 2.49 million people are living with a disability in Poland, which is equal to around 7.1% of the population.
The Polish permanent disability pension is granted to those who have been declared to have permanent work incapacity. There is also a temporary disability pension that can be claimed by people who have work incapacity for a temporary period.
- £212.43 per month on average
- People who are receiving other social benefits are capped at £302.06 per month
- People can receive an additional nursing care allowance of PLN 153 a month
- Financial support for rehabilitation holiday
- Support for new rehabilitation equipment and home adaptations for accessibility
Comparison Across Different Countries
These top 10 counties with the highest disabled populations in Europe offer a wide variety of financial and material support for those living with a disability. There is a vast spectrum of support offered, some great while others still have a long way to go and here are a few concluding highlights.
Interestingly, Spain and Italy are amongst the countries that make up some of the highest disability rates in Europe, yet have the least benefits.
Meanwhile, citizens in Germany can claim children’s disability benefits up until the age of 27, that’s 11 years longer than the UK children. This is valuable to German families with children who may not follow a typical timeline of non-disabled children who are more likely to move out and gain independence or employment at age 18.
The question is, what more can and must be done to support those who are unable to work due to disability? And, should more countries follow in Norway’s footsteps by providing disability benefits as a universal right?