On Wednesday, the Government announces its spending decisions for the next four years in its Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). These decisions are likely to have a big impact on the lives of disabled people in this Parliament.
Here are three areas that Scope will be looking for the Chancellor to address.
Support so that more disabled people can find, stay and progress in work
The Government has set out an ambitious – and very welcome – aim of halving the disability employment gap. This was something that Scope had called on all Parties to do in the run up to the 2015 General Election, and both the Prime Minister and Iain Duncan Smith have said this is a priority for the Government.
Right now, the difference in the employment rate amongst disabled people and the rest of the population is 30%, and has remained static for a decade.
We know disabled people want to work, and are ready to do so. But this gap remains for a range of reasons – from a lack of suitable and available jobs, poor attitudes from potential employers and a lack of appropriate support to enter the workplace.
But if this gap is to be halved, the Government needs action which matches this ambition. For example, current back to work programmes have poor outcomes in supporting disabled people into work and these must be improved to ensure specialist, tailored support is available.
As the Chancellor is expected to give more detail about the ‘Devolution Revolution’ it is critical that this opportunity connects disabled people to local jobs and growth if he is also to ‘halve the disability employment gap’.
Tackling the extra costs of disability
Life costs more if you are disabled. Our research shows that disabled people spend an average of £550 on disability related extra costs each month.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and its replacement, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), are in recognition of this. Scope very much welcomed the Chancellor’s commitment in the June 2015 Budget to protect these payments, and we will be looking for him to reaffirm this commitment.
But the Chancellor can also go further in making sure these extra costs are tackled and reduced. Last year, an independent inquiry by the Extra Costs Commission made a number of recommendations about how these extra costs can be driven down through action by Government, businesses, regulators and disabled people themselves. The Chancellor should use this opportunity to adopt some of the Commission’s recommendations to support disabled people as consumers and drive down these extra costs in areas like taxis and insurance. He could also adopt the Commission’s recommendation to get more disabled people online, supporting them to take advantage of online offers, information and advice.
Supporting disabled people to live independently
Social care is the support that disabled people need to get up, get washed, and get out of the house.
The care system is currently chronically underfunded, with £4.6 billion having been removed from the system over the last five years. According to the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, an additional £700 million per year is needed to address the social care funding gap, plus £2 billion over the spending review term.
Recently published Scope research shows the impact of this care crisis. Over half of the disabled people we spoke to who use social care (55%) can’t get the support they need to live independently. It is essential the Chancellor addresses the care crisis in the Spending Review, providing a sustainable settlement for the social care system, so that disabled people are able to receive the support they need to live independently.
The Government has also promised to do more to integrate the health and social care systems. Any announcement the Chancellor makes on how he plans to do this must consider disabled people and how integration will support their independence.
Like much of the country, Scope will be watching the Chancellor’s announcements closely. No other set piece political event over the next four years will provide a better opportunity for the Government to give disabled people an equal stake in our country’s future.