What the General Election means for us

(Image copyright Michael D Beckwith 2013)

Parliament returns on Monday with a new Conservative Government and a new Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP.

In the run up to the General Election, we called on the next Government to improve the lives of disabled people by:

  • protecting the value of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) / Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • halving the disability employment gap
  • investing in social care so that all disabled people have the support they need to live as independently as possible.

Halving the disability employment gap

We’re really pleased the Conservatives identified halving the disability employment gap as an important part of realising their objective of full employment. Their manifesto said ‘We will aim to halve the disability employment gap; we will transform policy, practice and public attitudes.’

The BBC have reported that as part of the Government’s plans to achieve full employment, there will be an Employment Bill within the Queen’s Speech that aims to create two million new jobs over the next five years.

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. Yet only 48 per cent are currently in work. We will be looking for the Government to ensure that disabled people are at the heart of employment strategies and regional growth plans.

This week we have seen a welcome rise in the number of disabled people in work but the disability employment gap has remained largely unchanged over the last decade, at around 30 per cent.

We have made a number of recommendations on how the Government could increase the disability employment rate by:

  • creating more flexible workplaces
  • ensuring disabled people are connected to regional growth
  • ensuring that all disabled people receive effective and personalised support.

There is also an important economic case for addressing the disability employment gap. A recent report by Scope found that a 10 percentage point increase in the disability employment rate would increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by £45 billion by 2030 and also result in a £12billion gain to the public purse.

It’s vital that the Government continues to see addressing the disability employment gap as a key part in achieving full employment, so that disabled people who want and are able to work are supported to find a jobs, stay in work and progress in their careers.

Extra costs payments

Life can cost more if you are disabled and the extra costs faced by disabled people can have a significant impact on disabled people’s living standards. Scope research shows that disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on costs related to their disability. PIP and DLA are payments that are designed to contribute towards these extra costs.

During the election the Conservative Party announced they planned to make £12billion worth of cuts to welfare and there was much speculation on their welfare spending plans.

Last year in his speech at the Conservative Party Conference the Chancellor said that a future Conservative Government would protect DLA and PIP in any freeze on benefits, a commitment that was also in their Manifesto.

We’ll be looking to the Government to protect the value of extra costs payments.

Independent living

Working age disabled people are a third of all social care users. Social care supports disabled people to live independently, work and play an active part in the community.

However levels of unmet need within social care are high, with 97,000 disabled people who would have received social care five years ago, now receiving no support. That is why Scope has called on the Government to introduce a new sustainable funding settlement for social care.

During the General Election there was considerable focus on the conservative party’s commitments on NHS funding, but it’s crucial though that investment in the NHS is not looked at in isolation from social care funding.

Earlier this year 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.

When the Government sets out their priorities within the Queen’s Speech, we hope to hear about increased and ongoing investment in social care, so that the ambitions of the Care Act, to promote independence and well-being, can be realised.

Find out more about Scope’s campaign to improve living standards (PDF).

London Marathon proposal…did she say yes?

Guest blog by Pally Chahal. The 2015 London Marathon will be a day 132 Scope runners will look back on for years to come – but Pally’s memory will be even more special.

On Sunday 26th April 2015 I embarked on my fifth London Marathon. However, unlike my previous accomplishments, this marathon was going to be very unique, special and one I will always look back on with fond memories. This marathon I was going to go down on one knee and propose to the love of my life, Pam, in front of thousands of runners and spectators cheering us on.

Training time

I was able to build up to 20.52 miles by late February, which was quite impressive considering I was plagued with calf injures and general life tends to overrule training. My commitment to running and at the same time my family fish and chip shop business is quite high, so I never really got a full day of recovery from long distance runs. However, this training would not be like my previous regimes – this time I was training with an engagement ring in a box in my pocket. Many times it hampered my training due to constant rubbing on my thigh.

Final preparations

Around late March I was running around 45 to 55 miles per week and was quite happy with how the box was sitting in my pocket and its constant bashing against my thigh. All that was needed now was some guidance from Scope, for whom I have raised nearly £8,000 over four London marathons. They are a great bunch of people who are always available to give advice and support for fundraising ideas and will always stay in touch with your marathon training. The last four marathons have always been that little bit easier at the 14.5, 18.5 and 24 mile marks where you can rely on the Scope volunteers to cheer you on. Once I had revealed my idea to the team they did everything to help me make sure I succeeded in meeting up with Pam and my family members to carry out the proposal. They provided me with grandstand passes which is yards away from the finishing line, with Buckingham Palace providing the perfect backdrop to propose to Pam.

The marathon

The conditions were perfect – overcast with a slight drizzle of rain, all of which made for a great day of running and hopefully another personal best – sub three hours 30 minutes was on the cards. One thing I didn’t account for in my training was carrying my mobile phone just to make sure I could stay in touch with Pam at the grandstand. It was going to be interesting to see how the phone sat in my other pocket but I remained positive and channelled my thoughts into proposing and seeing the love of my life yards away from the finishing line. As the race progressed I was really comfortable – my pace and breathing were awesome. Around half way I managed to ring a friend to get some information on my predicted time based on my half marathon completion and it was three hours 13 minutes. During this time I was totally ecstatic and managed to ring Pam to find out she was with family by the grandstand – at this point I could barely contain my excitement and gave a surging roar to the crowd of supporters.

London Marathon CheeringThis seemed like plain sailing; surely it couldn’t be that easy with only eight miles to go. I could visualise myself proposing to Pam and topping it off with a personal best at the finishing line. Little did I know running off too fast during the first half of the marathon would come back to haunt me. I slowly started feeling pain under my foot, a pain I have been overcoming during training. For up to 21 miles I managed to march through the pain. Eventually it became more excruciating and unbearable, causing me to stop and attend to my foot. As the miles remaining decreased so did my energy to fight against the pain. The personal best became a distant memory and I channelled my thoughts into proposing to Pam. The Scope team at the 24.5 mile mark really spurred me on to finish strong. As I approached the last 385 yards they never seemed more beautiful – the constant sound of cheering, clapping and the whole atmosphere made me, and I’m sure the rest of runners, feel like celebrities as we approached the finishing line. However, my job was not finished yet and this young lady who always surprised me was now going to have the surprise of her life.

The proposal

On the right hand side of The Mall, facing the finishing line, I managed to see my brother who pointed out where Pam was standing and I slowly staggered towards her as she cheered my name. I can remember fiddling with my pocket zip and came over to Pam to kiss her whilst managing to unzip the pocket. I slowly stepped away from Pam and somehow plucked up the courage to get on one knee after a brutal 26.2 miles, holding on to a pole for support and said those precious words ‘will you marry me?’. The look on Pam’s face clearly showed she was absolutely shocked and the supporters around her started cheering. Knowing the pain I was in Pam didn’t hesitate and quickly said yes. At this moment I was the happiest man alive – all the pain I went through was well worth it. I managed to pick myself up and come across to Pam for a well-deserved celebration kiss. I collected myself together and gave another roar, clenching my fists in the air and marching to the finishing line as a very happy man.

Engaged life Coverage of the proposal on facebook

I finished in three hours, 43 minutes and 17 seconds; not my best time but very insignificant in terms of what I will remember from this year’s London Marathon. We managed to meet up with everyone at the post-race reception which Scope hold for all their runners and families. Here all the runners got a complimentary professional massage for their efforts and refreshments. The Scope team provided us with glasses of champagne to celebrate our engagement.

When I went to work the next day, customers started to congratulate me on the wedding proposal – they’d seen the video which went viral on Facebook. It was also covered by ITV news and the Daily Mail. I could not have imagined this sort of response at all and to be honest it was all so surreal. I would just like to say a big thank you firstly to the Scope Team for making this special event turn into a very special day for Pam and me, a day we will always cherish. Secondly a big thank you to all my customers, family and friends from Eltham, New Eltham, Sidcup and far out who have always donated generously for a great course and continue to do so. And a special thanks to Pam for making my dreams come true and being my true angel.

Fancy being one of our London Marathon runners next year? Find out more.