Wednesday’s Budget will be George Osborne’s fifth set piece financial statement in the last 16 months. In this blog we look at the three key issues we hope the government will address: PIP and extra costs, disability employment, and social care.
A few weeks ago, the Chancellor said the UK economy is smaller than expected this year. On the Andrew Marr show he confirmed that he is looking to find additional savings equivalent to 50p in every £100 the government spends.
In the same interview the Chancellor also defended the Government’s decision to introduce new restrictions to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment, aimed at saving £1.2bn.
It is against this backdrop that the Chancellor will make his statement.
We will be looking closely at what the Budget will mean for disabled people in three key areas.
PIP and Extra costs
Last week – just days before the Budget – the Government announced new restrictions to the PIP assessment. These are expected to impact upon 640,000 people and the Government estimates that it will save £1.2bn.
This announcement was the result of a Government consultation which looked at how disabled people are awarded PIP for aids and appliances. Scope research shows that life costs more if you are disabled. Disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on disability related costs.
We’ve expressed our concern about the impact that these changes will have on disabled people who rely on PIP to help meet the extra costs of disability.
At the same time, the Government announced it is considering the case for long term reform of disability benefits and services.
We will be looking closely at what the Chancellor has to say about these plans. Any reforms must guarantee disabled people the support they need to live their lives.
We will also be looking for the Chancellor to take action to drive down the extra costs disabled people face. This was the focus of the Extra Costs Commission, an independent inquiry facilitated by Scope that reported last year.
In the run up to the one year anniversary of the ECC final report in June, we hope the Chancellor will be able to take forward ECC recommendations in his statement.
In the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in November last year, he announced that 2016 would see a new ‘White Paper’ focused on how to support more disabled people into work and fulfill the Government’s commitment to halve the disability employment gap.
There is even greater pressure on the Government to deliver this since the Welfare Reform and Work Bill has all but completed its passage through Parliament, introducing a £30 per week cut in the rate of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) paid to disabled people who are in the Work Related Activity Group from April 2017.
Whilst the White Paper has yet to be published, he could be expected to give some further detail on how the £100 million fund for disability employment support (announced in the Chancellor’s last Budget) will be spent. We will also be watching for any more detail on the new Work and Health Programme, which is to be targeted at supporting disabled people to find work.
We will be looking to see if the Chancellor will set out how these funds will be effectively used and joined up to get disabled job seekers into work.
Social care was rightly a major area of focus for the Chancellor in his CSR statement. A third of social care users are working age disabled people, and they account for around half the social care budget. Social care has a vital role to play in enabling working age disabled people to live independently.
In the run up to the CSR, Scope published research on disabled people’s experiences of social care. Only 18 per cent of social care users said services consistently support them to live as independently as possible. 55 per cent said social care never supports their independence.
The Chancellor’s CSR announcements of a council tax precept that councils can charge to fund social care, and expansion of the Government’s Better Care Fund – to create better integration between health and social care, are therefore welcome. But, it is vital that the impact of this additional funding is properly monitored to see that the needs of working age disabled people are being met.
We will be live tweeting during the Chancellor’s statement, and look out for a further blog post on what is announced on Wednesday.