Today, the Queen will formally open Parliament and set out the Government’s legislative programme for the coming year.
There has already been a lot of speculation about what her speech might contain.
Here are three things disabled people will be looking out for:
How to ‘Half the disability employment gap’
The Conservative Manifesto stated the aim of halving the disability employment gap.
This means more than a million more disabled people entering and staying in work.
In the latest Office for National Statistics figures there was some good news with the disability employment rate rising to 48 per cent, with the rate of increase now rising faster than the rest of the population.
However, the gap between the employment rate for disabled people and the rate for rest of the population still hovers at around 30 per cent (31.3 per cent), as it has for over a decade. There’s a lot more to do if the Government are going to meet their bold aim.
This will be top of the agenda for the new Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson and the new Minister for Employment, Priti Patel.
With reports that a ‘Jobs Bill’ will be a centre piece of the Queen’s Speech, disabled people will be looking at what measures will be included to support disabled people into work.
Too many disabled people slip out of work, because employers often struggle to provide personalised and flexible support. The financial support available for work place adjustments must also be strengthened, as should the personalised back to work support for disabled people. With the Government also looking at regional growth, there is a real opportunity to join this up with ensuring that disabled people are able to benefit.
If we’re going to get a million more disabled people into work, it’s important to understand that life costs more if you are disabled. From travel costs, to higher fuel bills or specialist equipment – research shows that this adds up to on average £550 per month.
This has a huge impact on disabled people’s ability to hold down a job or even make ends meet. Scope is working with the independent Extra Costs Commission – led by disabled entrepreneurs and business experts – to look into what can be done to get disabled people a better deal as consumers. It’s clear businesses need to value the purple pound and disabled people need to be savvier consumers.
But there’s a big role for the Government. Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments (as it is becoming) are a lifeline that can go some way to cover these significant extra costs. The Prime Minister stated in the election campaign that he wanted to ‘enhance and safeguard’ PIP. Disabled people will be watching closely to see how the Government makes this happen.
The right to live independently
Twenty years on from the Disability Discrimination Act – which enshrined equal rights for disabled people – too often disabled people find that even basic decisions are taken out of their hands.
Human rights are hugely important in enabling disabled people to live independently and to have the same opportunities in life as everybody else.
Human rights legislation is vitally important for disabled people. It a clear legislative tool to challenge decisions and actions which could restrict disabled people’s ability to live independently and – before it gets to a legal stage – understand and articulate their rights.
Disabled people will be watching closely to see what any change to this legislation would mean.
At the same time council-run social care supports disabled people to live independently, work and play an active part in the community.
The promised investment of £8billion in the NHS and plans to devolve power to regions can’t be separated from the crisis in social care.
More and more people need support, but fewer and fewer people are getting it. LSE research for the Care and Support Alliance revealed that around 500,000 older and disabled people who would have got care in 2009 are no longer entitled to it, while the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services estimate we are heading towards a £4.3bn black hole in social care.
Without care people become isolated, slip into crisis and the emergency and health service picks up the pieces. Care is the critical piece of the puzzle of making local services work.
We’ll be tweeting during today’s speech and will publish a blog later in the week with our analysis.