On Wednesday the Chancellor George Osborne will deliver the last budget of this Parliament with some commentators arguing that with this statement “the general election will kick off in earnest”.
There has been a lot of speculation about the Chancellor’s statement and here at Scope we will be following the Budget closely to see what it will mean for disabled people and their families. We’ll be looking out for announcements in the following three areas:
Halving the disability employment gap
A key theme of the Chancellor’s speech is expected to be jobs and growth.
We know that disabled people want the same opportunities to work as everyone else and nine in ten disabled people are in work or have worked in the past. But for the Chancellor to achieve his aim of “full employment”, more must be done to address the disability employment gap.
Access to Work supports disabled people to stay in work and progress in their careers. The Chancellor could strengthen Access to Work, to make sure more disabled people can benefit.
He could build upon the Minister for Disabled People’s welcome announcement last week about the introduction of personal budgets for Access to Work. This will give disabled people more control over how they access the support which enables them to work.
However, we are concerned about new proposals to cap the amount of funding each individual can receive through Access to Work. A cap could mean that disabled employees, such as those who require British Sign Language interpreters, could lose their support and would be unable to continue working.
We’ll also be looking to the Chancellor to use his focus on regional growth to create programmes specifically aimed at improving employment rates amongst disabled people.
Protection of DLA and PIP
Life can cost more if you are disabled. The extra costs faced by disabled people can have a significant impact on disabled people’s living standards, who spend on average £550 per month on costs related to their disability. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are payments that are designed to contribute towards these extra costs.
Welfare spending is also likely to be a key theme of the Budget. Last year the Chancellor announced in his speech at the Conservative Party Conference that a future Conservative Government would protect DLA and PIP in any freeze on benefits. We’ll be looking to the Chancellor to commit to this in the Budget.
This month’s Extra Cost’s Commission interim report highlighted the need to tackle the underlying drivers of the extra costs disabled people face. One area that the Commission identified was the need to improve online access for disabled people. Thirty per cent of disabled people have never used the internet, compared to seven percent of non-disabled people. This prevents disabled people accessing appropriate financial products and getting some of the best deals on goods and services.
Anything the Chancellor announces to improve digital inclusion should consider how to support more disabled people to get online.
Investment in social care
Social care supports disabled people to live independently, work and play an active part in the community.
With the Budget taking place just two weeks before the landmark Care Act comes into force, The Chancellor must take steps to introduce a sustainable funding settlement for social care.
Much focus has been placed on whether the Chancellor will commit to investing £2bn per year in the NHS, as set out in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View. However, investment in the NHS cannot be looked at in isolation from social care funding. Last week the Care and Support Alliance published the findings of a survey of over 800 English GPs which found that almost nine in ten believe reductions in social care services have contributed to pressures in their surgeries.
The Chancellor should use his final Budget before the election to prioritise investment in the social care system so that the ambition set out in the Government’s Care Act in this Parliament can be realised in the next.