Tag Archives: Election

Priced out: ending the financial penalty of disability by 2020

Earlier this month Scope released the first in a series of reports that look in depth at the challenges within disabled people’s living standards.

When we talk about improving living standards in the UK, we often think of economic growth, prices and wages. But what is rarely recognised is a problem that affects disabled people’s living standards that pre-dates the recession – one owing to the additional costs of disability.

Today, we launch the second in our series of reports – Priced Out: ending the financial penalty of disability by 2020. The report brings together new research and analysis to investigate the extra costs disabled people face and how to tackle them.

Disabled people pay a financial penalty on life, which can be because of:

  • Having to buy more of everyday things (like heating, or taxis to work)
  • Paying for a specialist items (like a wheelchair or a hoist)
  • Paying more than non-disabled people for same products and services (like insurance)

On average disabled people spend £550 per month on disability related things.

Over 20 years ago – recognising this financial penalty- a Conservative government introduced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to help cover the extra costs of disability.

Yet disabled people still feel their effects and:

Not only is financial instability bad for disabled people, but as people in the UK are living longer failing to address the problems posed by a growing, and significantly under-pensioned segment of the population, will have ramifications for the living standards of the UK as a whole. Tackling extra costs is therefore a policy imperative.

With a general election rapidly approaching, and with signs of economic growth in the UK beginning to show, there is an opportunity for political parties to set out what they will do to end this financial penalty by 2020, and make sure that disabled people are part of fair, inclusive growth.

Protecting crucial extra costs payments

DLA has been crucial for disabled people to lead independent lives, to take up opportunities, increase their own income and contribute to their communities.

But recent and planned welfare reform threatens these important payments.

DLA is being replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIP). But PIP assessments do not ensure those who need support get it. 600, 000 disabled people are set lose DLA through its reform.

And in the Budget 2014, the Chancellor announced that starting in 2015-16 an overall limit of £119.5 billion will be placed on parts of social security spending.DLA and PIP are planned to be within the cap and are at risk of being cut because of it.

We recommend:

  • Last week an independent review of PIP assessments was announced. We call on the Government commit to replacing the current assessment of extra costs with a new one that more accurately identify disabled people’s extra costs.
  • The Government protect extra costs payments such as DLA and PIP by taking them out of the cap or ring-fencing them within it.

Making extra costs payments go further

 Extra costs payments do not go far enough. DLA and PIP do not cover all extra costs. Therefore disabled people are still more likely to be in debt and unable to build savings and contribute to pensions.

We recommend:

The Government make extra costs payments go further by committing to an extension of the ‘triple lock’ guarantee on pensions to extra costs payments in the next parliament – meaning they will rise by the highest of prices, earnings or 2.5% each year.

Driving down extra costs

Where extra costs can be driven down, they ought to be. Currently, only the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has responsibility for tackling the problem of extra costs. But in reality, all departments have a role to play. For example, research shows that inaccessible housing can dirve up contribute extra costs.

We recommend:

The Government and all political parties commit ensuring truly cross-departmental policy-making to identify and drive down the root causes of extra costs by placing the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) in the Cabinet Office.

Often things disabled people need to buy are very expensive – such as £3500 for a Lightwriter which turns text into speech. Affordable products to adapt mainstream tablets (which cost between £200 and £600) are not commonly available. And sometimes disabled people have to pay more for things just because they are disabled – for example facing large supplements for travel insurance based on their condition.

We recommend:

The Government, business and regulators re-balance markets so that they work better for disabled people. For example the Government should create a new funding stream as part of the Growth and Innovation Fund (GIF) from the Skills Funding Agency which invites employers in the relevant sectors to apply for investment in skills of their workforce, specifically to innovate for disabled people.

This approach will go some way in ending the financial penalty disabled people pay by 2020. This will raise disabled people’s living standards, and ensuring there is fair, inclusive growth which does not leave disabled people behind.

Later this month Scope will publish the third in this series. It will look at what the Government can do to create better job opportunities for disabled people.

In the Summer Scope will be launching a Commission on Extra Costs to investigate why there is a premium attached to the goods, services and infrastructure (housing and travel) disabled people use and what can be done to bring them down.

Under-representation of disabled people in public and political life

Polling station

While disabled people have a vital contribution to make to public and political life, they are significantly under-represented throughout our political system. The reality is that Parliament is nowhere near reflecting the proportion of disabled people in the UK, and local government reveals a similar story in terms of the level of under-representation.

The consequence of this is that the quality of our government suffers from the existing lack of representation. As the Government presses ahead with a wealth of reforms that will have a real effect on disabled people’s lives, it is essential that their voices are being heard – now more than ever.

Tackling under-representation of disabled people

The different barriers that prevent disabled people from standing for elected positions have been widely examined by the Speaker’s Conference on parliamentary representation a few years ago. The Government has already acted upon some of the recommendations, for instance by committing to establish a dedicated fund to address the extra costs faced by disabled people in standing for election.

We know the additional financial disadvantage – arising, for example, from the cost of employing an interpreter or from the extra cost of taking a taxi rather than a bus due to the inaccessibility of transport – is a real concern to many disabled people who want to put themselves forward and stand for election. Over the last months, Scope has been working with the Government to help develop the fund.

With the fund set to become operational by later this year, this will no doubt represent a crucial moment in terms of improving disabled people’s participation in public life. In the meantime, we are seeing welcome progress on a number of other proposals.

Following the consultation last year, the Government is now publishing guidance for political parties to ensure that parties are clear about their legal obligations. Many disabled people fear that their reasonable adjustment requirements would not be met if they were to stand for election.

In light of this, the guidance is welcome indeed. All political parties have important roles to play in making sure that disabled people feel confident about seeking support and are provided with the reasonable adjustments they need, thus enabling them to perform to the best of their ability.

In addition, the Government is also currently working with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations to develop a training package for disabled people wishing to access elected office – which is due to be launched in the months to come.

We still have a long way to go before there is any prospect of achieving an equal representation of disabled people in public life. More needs doing, but as Lynne Featherstone, the Minister for Equalities, writes, “These policies are just the start of what we are doing to make Parliament and councils more representative of the people they serve.”

What is absolutely clear – and as the Minister acknowledges – is the positive effect this would bring in terms of decision-making: “As the Minister for Equalities, it seems obvious to me our democratic institutions make the best decisions when they have a mix of people with different skills, backgrounds and experiences, from right across the country.”