On budget day, every interest group in the country will be sizing up the Chancellor’s words to see who are the winners and losers. Today, the two themes of Osborne’s 2014 budget are of real importance to disabled people: savings and resilience. But what impact will today’s announcement have on people’s lives?
Disabled people pay more for all kinds of everyday things, from taxi fares to work, to disability equipment, to higher energy bills – on average £550 per month.
The extra costs of disability prevent people from building up any sort of financial buffer against the unexpected. Research shows 85% of disabled people saved nothing in the past year; disabled people are three times more likely to take out doorstep loans than non-disabled people.
So a focus on savings is welcome, but before disabled people can benefit from what is on offer, we need to make it possible for disabled people to build financial assets.
20 years ago the Government brought in DLA to help disabled people meet the additional costs they face. It’s crucial that the Government protects this financial lifeline. But the cap on Annually Managed Expenditure (AME), which sets a limit on the amount government spends on welfare, could start to break the link between people’s need for financial support and the value of that support.
The Chancellor announced today that the cap would be set at £119billion in 2015-16 – equivalent to the value of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast for the coming year’s expenditure. This suggests there will be no additional cuts to the welfare budget in the coming year. But the devil will be in the detail. The way the cap works means that if spending on one benefit goes up – say housing benefit or Employment Support Allowance, there will be pressure for hasty policy decisions about how other spending an be limited to keep to the government’s target. We can only watch and wait to see how this plays out and what affect that will have on DLA/PIP over the years ahead. You can read more about our position on the welfare cap here.
Today George Osborne talked a lot about resilience – building into the recovery some sort of protection against future risk. What does resilience mean for disabled people? It’s more than just the money in people’s pockets.
People’s ability to take up all of the opportunities life presents is based on a number of things – their income, yes – but also their family and friends, having a rewarding job, having access to services that meet their needs. Today there was recognition of the need to help people manage household finances through support for energy bills and fuel costs. There was the promise of 1.5 million extra jobs over the next 5 years – we have to push for those jobs to be available to disabled people. The missing link is investment in the infrastructure that is so key to many disabled people in building their resilience – funding for social care.
If we are to build a resilient economy, it has to be one in which everyone can play their part. Disabled people have an important role to play in the recovery – but today’s budget showed we still have a long way to go.