What we would like to see in the Autumn Statement 2016

This Wednesday Phillip Hammond will give his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor, the Government’s first major financial statement since the vote to leave the European Union.

At Scope we’ve been campaigning and raising awareness of the important issues that disabled people face ahead of Wednesday’s Autumn Statement announcement.

Autumn Statement

There has been lots of speculation about what he will include. He has decided not to go ahead with previous Chancellor George Osborne’s formal target to create a budget surplus by 2020 which will give him some flexibility on how much he spends.

Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister set out her commitment to creating a country that ‘works for everyone’ and ‘allowing people to go as far as their talents will take them.’ A recent common theme has been a focus on those ‘just about managing.’ But what does this mean for disabled people and what are Scope been calling for?

Last week we saw passionate speeches from all parties about the need to rethink the implementation of forthcoming reductions in financial support to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), at the beginning of the month the Government launched its consultation to tackle the disability employment gap; and, last month we published research highlighting the crisis in social care for young disabled people.

Taken together, there are many disabled people who are ‘just about managing’.

Our Extra Costs work has highlighted life costs more if you’re disabled. £550 a month more. From the need to purchase appliances and equipment, through to spending more on energy. And yet payments aimed at alleviating these – such as Personal Independence Payments (PIP) – often fall short of enabling disabled people to meet extra costs, leaving many turning to credit cards and payday loans to help with everyday living.

Ahead of the Autumn Statement we think there are three key areas that need addressing.

Social Care

Social care has been at the top of the news agenda in the run up to the Autumn Statement with the Care Quality Commission, Local Government Association, Care and Support Alliance and even the Conservative Chair of the Health Select Committee saying the social care system is in desperate need of investment. Working age disabled adults represent nearly a third of social users.

We have long been calling for sustainable funding in social care. Reductions in funding to local government over the past six years mean the social care system is starting to crumble under extreme financial pressure. We have heard from disabled people who have had to sleep fully-clothed, in their wheelchairs. Scope research in 2015 found that 55 per cent of disabled people think that social care never supports their independence. And just last month we found young disabled adults’ futures are comprised by inadequate care and support.

Social care plays a vital role in allowing many disabled people to live independently, work and be part of their communities. That’s why urgent funding and a long-term funding settlement are needed.

Extra Costs

On average, disabled people spend £550 a month on disability related costs and when we asked disabled people about their top priorities for the Autumn Statement, 70% said protecting disability benefits. We want to see PIP continue to be protected from any form of taxation or means-testing and the value of PIP protected.

The Government is expected to announce significant infrastructure investment and there will be potentially be announcements on digital infrastructure and energy.

We hope energy companies are required to think more about how they can support these consumers with their energy costs more effectively. With 25 per cent of disabled adults having never used the internet compared to 6 per cent of non-disabled adults, any new digital skills funding should include specific funding for disabled people.

Employment

The Government made a welcome commitment in their manifesto to halve the disability employment gap and a plan on how to achieve this in the Improving Lives consultation.

The Autumn Statement provides an opportunity for the Government to take steps to support disabled people to find, and stay in work.

Last week, MPs debated the changes to Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group due to begin in April 2017. MPs from across political parties have been urging the Government to think again about the changes. Half a million disabled people rely on ESA and we know they are already struggling to make ends meet. Over the last year we have been campaigning against this decision as we believe reducing disabled people’s financial support by £30 per week will not help the Government meet their commitment to halve the disability employment gap.

Read more about the Green Paper and how to get involved with the consultation.

Did you know America’s longest serving President was disabled?

Today is the start of UK Disability History Month, which runs from November 22 to December 22. The theme this year is disability and language. Scope will be marking the month by publishing a number of blogs which tell the stories of disabled people throughout history.

We will explore the language used when talking about disabled people, the lack of recognition of the achievements disabled people have made and asking what impact this has on the way we view disabled people today and the impact this has on the life chances of disabled people.

We have asked young disabled people to tell the stories of historical figures they admire.  Featuring Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Frieda Kahlo and Alfred Nobel –  people who have made a huge impact on our world. We will also feature blogs from older disabled people who talk about how their lives have changed over more recent decades.

The people we have chosen to write about have made such an impact in the world of politics, science and the arts and their legacy lives with us today. Yet despite all they have achieved, why do so few people know they were also disabled?

How many people are aware that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, America’s longest serving President and a political icon, used a wheelchair due to a bout of polio?

Why do we know so little about disabled people’s achievements?

As part of Disability History Month we want to explore why this is the case. Why do we know so little about disabled people’s achievements and why do we not celebrate them?

So much of the discourse around disability is negative and this can have a huge impact on how disabled people see themselves.

We all need role models and people we can look to inspire us and show us what can be achieved and this is particularly important for disabled people who already face prejudice when it comes to finding work or ignorance about what is needed to enable someone to live independently.

20% of the UK population are disabled and yet research carried out by Scope shows that nearly half (43%) of the British public say they do not know a disabled person. We hope that over the coming weeks as you read about the lives of disabled people, past and present, that you will have a better understanding of the lives of disabled people, challenges disabled have overcome but also of the challenges which remain and which prevent disabled people from reaching their full potential.

Find out more about Disability History Month on our website.

Read our blog about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Could a disabled person be President or Prime Minister today?

Could a disabled person be President or Prime Minister today?

Layla Harding is part of the Scope for Change campaign network and is a 2nd year Masters student. To mark Disability History Month she writes about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the longest serving US President, who was disabled as a result of Polio.

I vividly remember during one of my Sixth Form lessons when a teacher passing through my history class as we were learning about President Franklin Roosevelt’s role in World War 2  said “Imagine having a cripple in charge of the country?”

As a disabled person who uses walking aides and sometimes a wheelchair, I felt that this poor attempt at a joke reflected many of the opinion’s FDR would have faced in early 20th Century America. But this was 90 years later. Surely we should have moved on in our views on disability?

I hate the word “cripple”; I find it offensive and derogatory and it has no place in today’s society. Leaving behind terms like “cripple” paves the way for more positive discourse around disability. For a teacher to be using this term, even jokingly, shows how far the disability movement still has to go.

The importance of language

Today marks the start of Disability History Month and the theme is language. It’s so important we have this month to celebrate the achievements of disabled people and raise awareness of the importance of language when we discuss disability.

Many today will not know that one of America’s greatest Presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was disabled. Not surprising considering he felt he had to hide his disability for fear of the reaction he would get.

In 1921, aged 39, he was diagnosed with polio, resulting in permanent paralysis and leaving him unable to walk without support.  This seemed to spell the end of a promising political career but he went on to become Governor of New York and America’s longest serving President.

Throughout his political career he hid the fact that he was disabled. It was believed that it would be “a political liability if he were seen as this helpless man in a wheelchair” (Jay Winiki). His steel braces were painted black and covered by the clothes he wore. As a disabled person, I was shocked and disappointed to find out the lengths FDR went to hide the fact he was disabled; but I don’t feel he had a choice given the fear of public reaction.

He would use sticks to carry himself along whilst being supported by someone, which made people believe he could walk. He gave speeches sitting down or leaning against a lectern. Photographers who took pictures of him in his wheelchair would have their film confiscated.

Did FDR hide his disability?

Some challenge whether FDR did hide his disability, claiming he would talk openly about his condition and that it was discussed in the media. However, James Tobin believes that FDR didn’t want to be seen in public in his wheelchair because it was “just too potent a symbol of disability”.  Even today society sees a wheelchair as something one is forced to rely upon rather than something which makes it possible for people to get around and live independently, as I do.

Watching the recent US Presidential Election has had me thinking how disabled people are hugely under-represented in politics. Would a candidate be able to be open about being disabled today?  Considering the attitude of my teacher who felt able to use the word “cripple” and the emphasis placed upon Hilary Clinton’s health during the recent US election, I am not so sure.

Being disabled is not something to hide

School should be an environment in which a young person should feel safe and encouraged to expand their minds, and not feel disability is a barrier to achieving whatever they want.

For a teacher to make this comment was wholly inappropriate. Figures would suggest that few in the teaching profession identify as disabled but reliable data is difficult to find. But we need more disabled people become teachers so that they can show students a more positive view of disability.

I wouldn’t think twice today about challenging  such negative language because like FDR I know that being disabled is not something to hide and does not have to be a barrier to anyone achieving their goals.

Find out more about Disability History Month on our website.