2016 has been a busy year in politics. We’ve seen the Government make a significant U-turn to stop proposed changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), an important consultation announced on the future of health, work and disability, Brexit and increasing pressure on the Government to provide the social care system with the funds it urgently needs. Scope has focused on protecting the rights of disabled people throughout 2016.
Theresa May used her first speech as Prime Minister to outline her vision for the country. She said she wanted to create a country that worked for everyone and create more opportunity for people, regardless of background. Whilst we welcomed this, much more can be done to help those ‘just about managing’, especially when recent research has uncovered that nearly half of people in poverty are disabled themselves or live in a household with someone who is disabled. We’ve raised these concerns with Government, and we need to keep hearing from you about what needs to change.
While the world was excited by the Paralympics in Rio our research found that whilst 78% of disabled people, through the Paralympic Games, have a positive impact on attitudes towards disability. Only 19% felt that Britain is a better place to be disabled now, than four years ago.
That’s why we have met with officials at Downing Street to emphasise the importance of making their social justice plans focus on improving the lives of disabled people.
Social care has dominated the agenda in recent weeks and has been a big talking point all year. At Scope we’ve been calling for sustainable funding for social care to ensure disabled people have access to suitable care. The lack of additional funding in the Autumn Statement was disappointing and the small increase in council tax for social care won’t last and isn’t a long term solution.
In October we shared our research into the experiences of young disabled people and care ‘Leading My Life My Way’ with Government. This research uncovered that 60 per cent of young adults felt let down by their social care provision and a quarter were either only slightly or not at all involved in decisions about their care.
Many young disabled people are not being supported to do the things they want to do in their lives.
“I think it [support package] covers my blindness and my hearing impairments and the practical things I need to do, but it doesn’t give me enough time to go out and socialise.” Ricky, 26, South East
Urgently addressing the funding crisis in social care is the first step to delivering this.
In March, we saw the disability community unite against proposed changes to PIP announced in the Budget. These changes would have left 640,000 people worse off financially. We warned the Government that these changes would just make disabled people’s lives harder and that our helpline heard from many disabled people concerned about the changes. We urged the Chancellor to think again and consider the impact these moves have on the lives of disabled people.
The Government u-turned and said it would not be going with this plan and committed to no further welfare cuts during this parliament.
In October we published the one-year on report of The Extra Costs Commission looking at action taken by businesses, government, regulators and consumers to drive down the £550 financial penalty of being disabled.
Uber and Marks & Spencer were two examples of companies introducing new products and practices to serve their disabled customers better. We would now like to see more businesses recognise the value of their disabled customers and will be focusing on improving service in the energy and insurance industries in the New Year.
Following our campaign in 2015, the Government committed to halve the disability employment gap and this year we have continued to call on them to introduce reforms to meet this target.
Alongside other charities this year, we have campaigned changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) due to come into effect in April 2017.
The Government plans to reduce the level of financial support to disabled people in the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). Disabled People in the WRAG have been found unfit for work by the independent Work Capability Assessment. This cut in support of around £30 a week to new claimants would impact nearly half a million people in the WRAG.
We believe this cut will push disabled people further away from the jobs market and make their lives harder rather than helping them overcome existing barriers to employment.
MPs and Peers from across different political parties supported our calls and argued the change must be postponed. Although the Government pushed ahead with this cut, we will continue to campaign against it.
In October the Government published a Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability which set out proposals to reform support for disabled people in and out of work.
We think it is right the Government is consulting on this and welcome some of the proposals, including working more closely with employers, challenging attitudes and halving the disability employment gap. We want to see wholesale reform of the fit for work assessment scheme, employment support to be made voluntary and significant shifts in employer attitudes towards hiring disabled people.
However, we’re concerned that the Government is considering extending requirements to look for jobs and attend employment programmes to people in the support group of ESA.
The consultation is open until February and the Government want to feedback on their proposals. Our latest blog on the Green Paper sets out how you can get involved.
This year the new Prime Minister said, ‘we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.’ In 2017 we will be looking to ensure that this includes the UK’s 12.9 million disabled people.
Next year we will continue to campaign for the Government to introduce reforms that support disabled people to find and stay in work, the protection of disability benefits and asocial care system supports disabled people to live independently.