Anna Bird, our Executive Director of Policy and Research, recently spoke at an event on the Government’s social justice reforms, organised by the Spectator and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
What social justice means for us
We believe that a key social justice aim is to make sure that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.
It is therefore crucial that the debate on social justice and social reform include a focus on disability and the barriers disabled people face. Too many disabled people feel the financial penalty of disability. Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people, even though many are pushing hard to get jobs. And many are facing additional costs related to their impairment or condition.
Disabled people tell us that they worry about the cost of living and struggle to make ends meet in their day to day lives. This has resulted in an additional 275,000 families where someone is disabled, falling into poverty over the last two years.
If the Government wants to create social justice, it must understand the barriers disabled people face. And make disability a priority for social reform.
The Conservative manifesto made a commitment to get more disabled people into work, reduce the extra costs that disabled people face and reform the broken social care system.
But as our recent blog post on the Queen’s Speech set out, the Government has not provided much detail on how these commitments will be turned into concrete policy proposals that will make positive changes for disabled people.
What next for social reform?
After the election, Theresa May committed Parliament to work to make this a fairer and stronger country, where injustice is tackled and opportunity and aspiration is created for all.
Now is the time to make this reality, by ensuring that disabled people’s voices are part of the discussion around social justice.
The Government should take action in three areas to make social justice for disabled people a reality:
Firstly, urgent action is needed to close the disability employment gap (the gap between the employment rate of disabled people and non-disabled people) which has remained at 30 percentage points for over a decade . The Conservative manifesto committed to getting one million more disabled people into employment over the next 10 years and to legislate to give disabled people personalised and tailored employment support. But the Queen’s Speech did not mention employment support for disabled people at all. This is a missed opportunity – Scope research shows that a ten-percentage point in the employment rate among disabled adults would result in a £12 billion gain to the Exchequer and a £45 billion increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Secondly, disabled people face a range of extra costs related to their disability. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) play a vital role in helping disabled people meet some of these costs. We believe the Government should protect the value of disability benefits and develop a new Personal Independence Payment assessment which accurately identifies extra costs.
Lastly, action is necessary to drive down the extra costs disabled people face in the first place. A cross-governmental approach should be taken to tackling the range of additional costs disabled people experience for things like transport, utilities and financial services.
We agree with the Prime Minister that disability discrimination is a burning injustice that needs to be tackled. This will require a system change.
We believe the Government should commit to a cross-government disability strategy to address the barriers disabled people face, make sure disabled people are widely consulted on this, and finally, set Parliamentary time aside for debate and the legislative reform required.