During his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor, Phillip Hammond spoke about creating an economy that works for everyone and helping ordinary families.
However, we heard little from the Chancellor today that will help support the UK’s 12.9 million disabled people.
Despite calls from across the sector and from his own MPs the Chancellor didn’t take the opportunity to invest in the social care system.
Social care is the support disabled people rely on to get up, get dressed, get out, and lead independent lives. However, after years of underfunding the system is under extreme pressure and needs urgent investment.
Without long-term and sustainable funding for the social care system more disabled people are at risk of slipping into crisis without access to the support they need. Nearly a third of young disabled people told us they already aren’t getting the support they need to live independent lives. The Chancellor wants everyone to be able to share in economic growth but without adequate social care many disabled people will be unable to work and contribute to their communities in the way they choose.
The Chancellor said he was privileged to report on an economy where unemployment is at an 11 year low, however the disability employment gap has remained at around 30 per cent for a decade.
Scope analysis also shows that disabled people are almost three times as likely to fall out of work as non-disabled people. If the Government are going to achieve their manifesto commitment of halving the disability employment gap they need to do much more.
Disabled people need a broad package of support to find and stay in work. This includes challenging negative attitudes, a greater focus on flexible working practices and investment in the Access to Work Scheme.
Despite last week’s vote in the House of Commons calling on the Government to pause changes to Employment Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group, the Chancellor did not reverse this decision today. Half a million disabled people rely on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and are already struggling to make ends meet. Reducing their financial support won’t help more disabled people into work and we will continue to campaign against this decision.
Responding to pressure from MPs and charities, the Chancellor did announce changes to the Universal Credit “taper rate”.
This change to the rate at which someone loses their benefit as they increase their hours in work will be a slight improvement for some disabled people.
The Government today announced further investment in digital infrastructure, including a £1 billion investment in broadband. For disabled people to benefit from the investment the Government must work to close the digital divide. 25 per cent of disabled adults have never used the internet compared to six per cent of non-disabled adults. We need to see targeted investment in digital skills training for disabled people and action to improve web accessibility.
The Chancellor said he wants to make sure the retail energy market is functioning fairly for all consumers. Life costs £550 a month more for disabled people, due to costs such as a higher fuel bills. It is vital that both the Government and energy companies think about how they can support disabled people with their energy costs more effectively and set out details for how they plan to do this.
The extra costs faced by disabled people mean many are just about managing and are the people Theresa May promised to help in her first speech as Prime Minister.
The Government must do more to include the UK’s 12.9 million disabled people in their vision of a country which works for everyone.