How can the next government improve disabled people’s financial security?

We want the next government to deliver Everyday Equality with disabled people. It must put the interests of disabled people at the heart of its agenda and deliver meaningful change over the next five years to tackle the barriers that prevent disabled people from participating fully in society.

A major barrier to achieving everyday equality is the additional costs disabled people face as a result of their impairment or condition.

That’s why we are calling on the next government to improve disabled people’s financial security.

Life is more expensive if you are disabled

On average, disabled people spend £550 a month on costs related to their impairment or condition. These costs may include expensive items of specialised equipment, higher heating bills, or more costly insurance premiums.

Infographic reads: Life costs more if you're disabled. On average, disabled people spend £550 a month on disability related costs

These costs have a detrimental impact on disabled people’s financial stability. For instance, disabled people have an average of £108,000 fewer savings and assets than non-disabled people, whilst households with a disabled person are more likely to have unsecured debt compared to households without a disabled member.

The financial barrier of extra costs makes it harder for individuals to get into work, access education and training opportunities, and participate fully in their community.

It is vital that the next government tackles the financial penalty experienced by disabled people.

Ensuring disabled people have adequate support to meet extra costs

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – the successor to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – plays a key role in helping disabled people meet some of the additional costs of disability.

However, we know that applying for PIP is often a stressful process for disabled people. Our helpline saw a 542 per cent rise in PIP-related calls in the period April 2016 to March 2017 compared to the year previously, many of which were concerning difficulties disabled people and their families were experiencing with the assessment.

The assessment for PIP looks at how a person’s impairment or condition impacts upon their ability to carry out a series of day-to-day activities. We are concerned that this does not always capture the full range of additional costs that disabled people face. This can be seen by the fact that two thirds of individuals are successful when they appeal a decision following their PIP assessment.

That’s why we’re calling for the next government to protect the value of PIP and develop a new assessment for the payment that accurately identifies the range and level of disabled people’s extra costs.

We also know that life is particularly difficult for families where both adults and children face disability related costs.

As such, we want to see PIP and DLA act as a passport to other benefits for families with disabled children, such as free school meals and support with health costs.

Driving down extra costs

Action is also needed to drive down the extra costs that disabled people face in the first place.

Households with a disabled person spend £249 billion a year, the so-called “purple pound”. Yet, disabled people are too often unable to access essential goods and services at an affordable price, making it difficult to capitalise on this spending power.

Many disabled people also encounter poor customer service from businesses, with three quarters having left a shop or business because of a lack of disability awareness.

Two particular sectors where disabled people tell us they struggle as consumers are energy and insurance. For instance, Scope research shows that 29 per cent of disabled people have struggled to pay their energy bills in the past year. In the insurance market, two and a half million disabled people feel they have been overcharged for insurance because of their impairment or condition.

We want the next government to make sure essential markets, such as energy and insurance, have adequate services and support in place to help tackle the problem of additional costs and empower disabled people as consumers.

Tell us what being financially secure means to you

You can read more about our priorities for the next government and how you can register to vote in this election.

What does being financially secure mean to you? Email the stories team at Scope and tell us your experience – stories@scope.org.uk.

You can also join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #EverydayEquality.

How mindfulness helped me become more resilient

Milo is Scope’s Film and Media officer and has seen first hand the massive benefits practicing mindfulness can have. In this blog he looks at his own childhood struggles and how he thinks practising mindfulness may have helped him growing up. 

As a child my mind was a noisy place.

Sometimes I was treated badly by other kids because I would cry a lot of the time or would behave in ways they saw as strange. I just never seemed to develop that thick skin or the ability to fit in.

At secondary school I made a conscious decision (in hindsight a very bad decision) to put my sensitivity to rest. I started playing the part of the ‘confident cool kid’. It came as a total shock to me that people believed this facade at first, but they did!

A young boy smiling with the Disney character
A young Milo visits Disneyland Paris

I built up an external identity, patched together out of all the things I wanted to be and all the things I thought other people liked. I thought I was a pretty cool teenager. Fast forward eight years however, and cracks started to appear in this makeshift armor.

As it turned out the eureka solution of my adolescence wasn’t a suit of armor, it was a cage. University and immense social pressure exposed this. I tried various things to remedy my feelings of isolation and anxiety to no avail, and experienced several years in a dark place. It wasn’t until a particularly dark patch that I was given a book on mindfulness.

Building my resilience with mindfulness

It’s is not about doing yoga, going vegan or becoming ‘enlightened’. In fact, it couldn’t be more simple. Anyone can do it, anywhere, anytime – it’s just about directing your whole attention to the present moment.

Focusing on the ‘here and now’ can be an amazingly effective way of combating stress and anxiety. In these agitated states the brain tends to run away with itself, obsessing over the past or worrying about the future. When we devote ourselves to the present, whether it’s eating a tasty meal, feeling the way our limbs move or just sitting and listening to all the sounds around us, we give our brain a break and unload a little bit of stress each time.

It’s a cumulative process and the longer you practise mindfulness, even just a few minutes a day, the stronger your resilience and your ability to navigate stressful situations that might have overwhelmed you before. Don’t get me wrong, stress and anxiety aren’t a huge issue in moderation. Most of us however will experience far more stress than is useful because of the pressures of our lives. Mindfulness won’t teach you to never feel stress, but, by being present moment to moment, we can start to recognize and then unlearn our negative thought patterns.

Me today

Though I’ve now developed ways to increase my resilience, life is still sometimes a struggle. However committed I am to engaging mindfully with the world, I still swim against old habits. But, the regular practise of mindfulness, my safety net, means I have richer relationships with the people around me and I have never felt stronger and more true to who I am.

Knowing the progress I have made within just a few years, I can only begin to imagine how much greater these benefits would be if they had been part of my early education. The younger you are the fewer bad habits you have, to ‘unlearn’, the more wholeheartedly you can embrace mindfulness and the lighter the burden of life.  I know that if I’d started practising mindfulness as a child my resilience would have deep foundations and my self-belief would be indestructible. Instead I’m a bit like someone who learnt to swim as an adult. Sure I can stay afloat, but I’ll never be a mermaid.

Mindful Monsters

So resilience, I’ve worked out, is pretty important. Scope have years of experience supporting disabled people and their families build resilience in their lives. Whether as a parent, at the point of their disabled child’s diagnosis, or as a young disabled person, having the right tools to gain independence. Scope think it’s so important in fact, that resilience is a headline in their new five year strategy.

And that’s why Scope have launched Mindful Monsters, which is a fun, new way for all parents to develop resilience and kindness in their children, whilst supporting disabled people and their families through a monthly donation.

Families receive a set of activity cards to their door each month, giving their children important life skills, while spending quality time together. There are four themes to explore: relaxation, creativity, positivity and concentration. Fun, quick, easy, and as Mindful Monsters is inspired by mindfulness, the activities come with all its brilliant benefits.

I’m really excited about Scope’s Mindful Monsters and how it can help children build resilience into their lives, it’s exactly what a younger me needed!

Find out more at mindfulmonsters.co.uk.