Making social justice a reality for disabled people – panel event

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.

Change is desperately needed. And the Government cannot afford to wait any longer to address it.

The Queen’s speech – “Consultation cannot be a substitute for action”

Today the Government has announced the laws they plan to pass and the issues they will consult on over the next two years in the Queen’s speech.

The Queen’s speech is taking place in an unusual political context with the Conservative party having failed to secure an overall majority and still in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party over a confidence and supply agreement.

Queen’s speeches normally take place once a year but with the backdrop of Brexit negotiations, there won’t be another one until 2019, so if legislation wasn’t announced today it is now unlikely to be considered over the next two years.

The Conservative manifesto made commitments to get more disabled people into work, reduce the extra costs that disabled people face and reform the broken social care system. The need to tackle disability discrimination was mentioned explicitly in the Queen’s Speech but there was little information on how manifesto commitments will be turned into action.

The future of employment

Last year the Government held a major consultation on the future of employment support for disabled people. Reform is needed to both in and out of work support to enable disabled people to find, stay and progress in work. The consultation proposed a number of important measures, including reform of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), and Government ministers have promised to continue this work.

Yet disability employment was missing completely from the Queen’s speech. If the Government are to meet their manifesto commitment to get a million more disabled people into work then they need to take action to speed up the pace of change in closing the disability employment gap.

At the disability hustings last month Penny Mordaunt, the Minister for Disabled People, spoke again about the need for reform of the WCA, something all political parties agreed on. The manifesto also had a commitment to legislate on specialist employment support for disabled people, so it was disappointing to see neither of these things mentioned today.

There was no mention of social care for disabled people

Social care became a major issue at the election but disabled people were left out of the public debate, despite representing a third of social care users. The system desperately needs reform with over half of disabled people unable to get the support they need to live independently.

The Government has announced a consultation on the future of social care which is a welcome recognition that the system cannot continue as it is. However, there was no mention of the future of social care for disabled people. Disabled people rely on social care to get up, get dressed and go to work and their needs must be considered as part of a commitment to reform.

Disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on extra costs which affects their financial security and resilience. Disabled people face higher bills for energy and insurance so markets need reforming. Again, the Queen’s speech made a commitment to examine markets which aren’t working –  but there is action that can and should be taken now – such as requiring regulators across all essential markets to have a common definition of consumers in vulnerable circumstances.

The Prime Minister has promised to create a country that works for everyone but disabled people still face numerous barriers to everyday equality. Consultation cannot be a substitute for action. Commitments and warm words must now lead to legislation to tackle the barriers which stop disabled people participating fully in society.

That should start with a cross-Government disability strategy and action on the promises the Government has already made.

How to appeal a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit decision

Scope’s benefits advisor Debbie Voakes is presenting a set of films on how to appeal a PIP benefits decision. Read below for her guide to the five main steps:

1) The Mandatory Reconsideration process

You have one calendar month from the date on your decision letter to request a mandatory reconsideration.

Before you request a mandatory reconsideration go through your paperwork and pick out all the points that you don’t agree with. If possible, seek advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau, Disabled Person’s Organisation or a local welfare rights team. Don’t panic if you can’t get advice.

Review the PIP descriptors and work out why you should have qualified. If possible try and get some new evidence to support this. Call the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and explain your reasons for disputing the decision and point out why you feel that you should have qualified.

Can you do the activity reliably, safely, repeatedly, to an acceptable standard and in good time? If not, you might qualify for a higher score.

If you have further medical evidence, tell the DWP that you’ll send this as soon as you can. If you can, send it recorded or special delivery. Keep proof of postage.

If you can’t meet the deadline, tell the DWP as soon as possible. It’s best to keep within the timescales but if you can’t you might be allowed some more time.

2) From Mandatory Reconsideration to Appeal Tribunal

The Mandatory Reconsideration will be carried out by a different decision-maker at the DWP. They will review the claim form, the assessment report and all the supporting evidence that you sent in.

If the decision remains unchanged after the Mandatory Reconsideration, you will receive a copy of a Mandatory Reconsideration notice. You will be sent two copies of this and you’ll need one copy to send to the tribunal.

You will need to download an SSCS1 form. 

Try getting in touch with a benefits adviser to start building your case and work out your chances of success.

Join Scope’s online community where you can share appeal tactics and ask our benefits advisors specific questions.

If your SSCS1 form is going to be late, explain this on the form otherwise your appeal will not be accepted.

You can choose to have an oral or paper-based hearing. An oral hearing is better because you will be able to put your case forward in person. Only choose a paper-based hearing if your evidence is strong and clear and points to a clear decision.

Send your SSCS1 form and your copy of your Mandatory Reconsideration Notice to the tribunal. If possible send it by recorded delivery or special delivery.

Remember to keep records of all telephone calls and paperwork.

3) How to prepare for a PIP hearing

The DWP will look at their decision again once they have received your appeal. They can revise your award at any point up until the hearing if, for example, you send in new evidence.

You will be told the date of the hearing 14 days in advance. You should receive directions to the venue with transport links, accessibility information and also expenses. Review your paper evidence and think about what extra evidence you might need. Attending the hearing and telling the panel about your disability counts as evidence.

You can send in evidence at any point up until the hearing but don’t save it all up for the hearing as this could delay matters.

All papers relating to the appeal will be sent to the panel members before the hearing. This will give them the chance to identify if there are any problems or issues that may affect the hearing from going ahead.

4) On the day of the hearing

Take someone with you. This can be your representative if you managed to find one, could be your partner, a family member or a friend.

The tribunal will be made up of a tribunal judge, a doctor and a disability specialist. All are independent from the Department of Works and Pensions. Their role is to check the DWP’s decision and to ensure that the law has been applied correctly.

This is your chance to talk about how your disability affects you, how you feel you meet the descriptors and anything else that went wrong during the assessment process.

Normally tribunals will make a decision on the day and will confirm this in writing.

5) Further appeal

If you’re unhappy with the decision made by the first-tier tribunal, there is a further appeals process. You can appeal to the Upper Tribunal if you believe there has been an error in law.

This is a very complex area and you will need the help of a solicitor or a welfare benefits specialist. There may be some legal aid available to help you with your case.

Read PIP appeal tips from our online community.

How to prepare for a PIP assessment

Preparing to attend a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment can be a difficult time.  Scope has created a short film to guide you through the process.

The PIP assessment letter

When you get your letter, check the date and venue of the assessment. If there is a problem, tell the Department of Work and Pensions or the assessment provider as soon as possible.

Ask for the support you need to attend the assessment

Check the parking and facilities near the assessment centre.

Read the assessor’s guidance beforehand

The more prepared you are, the easier it is to relax. Read the guidance a week before the assessment so you are prepared.

Take a copy of your application and supporting evidence

It’s useful to take along your evidence so that you can refer to it during the assessment to ensure you’re covering all the bases.

Don’t assume the assessor knows anything about you

Be as honest and open as you can about how your impairment impacts on your health and well-being. Think about the everyday things you do to manage your impairment. It’s important to go into as much detail as possible about what a day in your life is like.

If you make it seem as if you are able to manage doing something but normally you’re not able to do it, then the assessor may assume that you can always do that thing.

Don’t ‘put on a brave face’ about how you deal with your impairment.

Talk about support you need even if you don’t get it now

At the assessment you have to show what you can’t manage, not how you do.

Ask someone who knows you well to come with you

Take someone with you to your assessment. This can help if you need physical support to get to the assessment centre but also it’s useful to have someone else listening in and filling in things you may miss.

And if you can’t get support from a family member or a friend, maybe consider contacting an advocacy service or someone who can just be there to support you.

Read more information on PIP assessments.

Being a parent – It’s kind of mind blowing to me

Phil Lusted is a web and graphic designer from north Wales who has most recently appeared in the BBC One documentary, ‘Big Love’.

Phil’s partner, Kathleen has a young daughter. For Father’s Day, Phil reflects on the things he is learning through being a parent with dwarfism and his hopes for the future.

Being a parent has opened my eyes to a lot of new things. I now have a child who looks up to me when she is in need of help or taking care of. I now have a responsibility to take care of our child when Kathleen is busy or needs assistance. It’s kind of mind blowing to me, in a good way. We are now officially a family and a team who strives to help, learn and care for each other through life.

I consider myself blessed to have met Kathleen’s daughter from her young age, as it’s beneficial we both learn to adapt together as she grows up. We have already learned so much from each other.

She often asks me for help when it comes to getting dressed, putting on her socks and shoes, jackets, and so on. During bed times she enjoys settling down with me as I read her a bedtime story, and we often have a giggle together before sleep time.

A man with dwarfism and his partner, a non-disabled woman, smile and laugh on a beach
Phil and his partner, Kathleen, are looking forward to raising their child together

Being a dwarf parent has its own challenges, as I do some things differently in comparison to an average height person and there are also situations where I cannot always manage. Often I can be hard on myself and feel down about the fact I wish I could do more in the way of being able to pick the baby up and carry her around when needed. I’m blessed to have Kathleen’s patience, as she reassures me that I am doing enough.

Below are just some of the things I’ve learnt as a parent so far.

Pull-ups instead of diapers

Diapers are a real struggle! Mostly because I find it fiddly to deal with my fingers (I was born with no knuckles), so pull-ups are a great alternative that myself and our child can manage without too much of a struggle.

Using a smaller/lighter stroller

Kathleen has an umbrella stroller in which I can easily manage to push around when it comes to getting out and about. It works a wonder for myself, the handles are low and the stroller is easy to push.

The safety harness

It’s not often the baby will try and outrun me, she’s very calm and will stay close, but using a harness on her to keep her close is always handy. That way, she is not needing to be carried and she also gets to walk around.

When I use a step

Keeping things out of reach from our child is important. I use steps to reach those particular things, or to do the dishes, brushing my teeth. Sometimes she will try and climb up on the step with me, so explaining to her that it’s not safe is important, we don’t want her falling and hurting herself!

A man with dwarfism and a non-disabled woman walk on a beach
Phil and his partner, Kathleen, on a photoshoot

I am excited about the journey of being a parent to this wonderful child as she gets older, learns, and grows. It is so nice and comforting to be able to form such a strong bond with her. I care so much for this child and her happiness.

Head to Scope’s website to read tips suggested by community members about pregnancy and parenthood for disabled people.

You can also join the discussion on Scope’s online community and speak to other disabled parents about their tips and experiences.

Why I’m teaching my kids to be mindful with Mindful Monsters

In celebration of Father’s Day we interviewed Tom, who has three children. We asked Tom his favourite things about being a dad, how he will be celebrating with his family and the verdict on Mindful Monsters, Scope’s new monthly activity cards, so far.

How did your life change when you became a dad?

So much more responsibility! But, becoming a dad was so exciting at the same time. The anticipation, meeting new people who are expecting and then looking after this helpless bundle is a real challenge, but it’s amazing. I think it made me better at decision making, and much more resilient to lack of sleep! I make more of the days on weekends now, whereas before I might have lazed around.

What have your children done that got them into trouble –  but you couldn’t help but laugh?

Once my four-year-old took a walkie-talkie to go and use the toilet. We were down stairs and we heard a crackle and then over the walkie talkie he said ‘Did you hear the plop, over?’ Too funny!

What’s the best thing about being a dad?

Seeing them grow and watching their personalities form. Helping to shape them and teach them about the world. Also, the banter and fun we have is great.

What’s the trickiest thing about being a dad?

Discipline is hard, but necessary. Going off to work and leaving them everyday is hard too.

What’s the most embarrassing thing your kids have ever done?

Probably a standard thing which is shouting and screaming in a shop about something, meaning we have to make a sharp exit!

What have your kids taught you?

How great it is to be curious and inquisitive. How much people love to share their knowledge. Without sounding too cliche, I find it really inspiring. It makes me think that I can benefit from the creativity cards in the Mindful Monsters pack as much if not more than them!

If you could teach your kids one thing, what would that be?

I’d really like to teach them how important I think sport is. That it gives so much to people and they should value this highly as a way to achieve, meet people, build self-esteem and have fun.

What do you want to experience with your kids that you haven’t already?

I think travel is a big one for us. There’s so much I want the boys to see. I want them to be an age where they can really appreciate it though. My youngest, Olly, is still only a baby, so we are a few years off yet!

If your kids were to describe you in one word, what would they say?

I’ve taught them a chant: ‘Daaaaaddy, Daaaaddy, Daaaaddy, Daaaaaddy, Daaaaaddy, Daaaaddy!’ I think that pretty much sums me up to them at the age they are at the moment. But who knows, in a few years maybe there will be a bit of personality in there! Maybe once they realise I’m just a normal person like everyone else.

What has been the reaction to Mindful Monsters so far?

We got our first pack a couple of weeks ago. The morning after it had arrived, I found them in Kit’s room (my eldest) – when I’d gone to wake him the next morning I saw that he’d slept with them next to his bed! He wanted to know all about the monsters and their personalities. He really enjoyed learning their names and looking at the cards and stickers.

We did the compliment card in the positivity category, which was really interesting. Kit couldn’t do it and Jack, the middle one, went really shy. It’s like they aren’t used to / wired to say ‘don’t you look nice today’ or something like that. Something to definitely work on as they should be free with the compliments! Thank you Mindful Monsters!

Mindful Monsters is a fun new way to support Scope. You and your little ones can experience all the benefits of mindfulness while enjoying quality time together through a monthly pack of family activity cards. Explore the themes of positivity, creativity, concentration and relaxation.

Find out more over on the Mindful Monsters website

What does the general election result mean for our work?

Last week voters went to the polls to have their say in the General Election and on Tuesday MPs returned to a Parliament that looks different to the one they left a little more than eight weeks ago.

Following the election, the Conservatives, whilst remaining the largest party, lost their majority in Parliament. They are now looking to come to an agreement with the DUP, whereby the DUP will support them on key votes such as the Budget

Whatever happens, it is crucial that the Government and Parliament do not lose sight of addressing the barriers that prevent disabled people from taking fully part in society.

We know that in 2017, life is still much harder for many disabled people than it needs to be. This is something we believe the Government should urgently address.

We want the Government to listen to disabled people

The Prime Minister has spoken about creating a country where no one is left behind and where the challenges people face in their everyday lives are addressed. And in their manifesto the Conservatives said that they will confront the burning injustice of disability discrimination.

We want the new Government to listen to disabled people and make sure everyday equality for disabled people becomes a reality. Everyday equality is about ensuring that disabled people have the same opportunities in life as everybody else.

What we’re asking the Government

Before the election, we set out our calls to the next Government. As Parliament returns and ahead of the Queens Speech next week we are calling on the Government to:

Improve disabled people’s work opportunities by removing the barriers to work disabled people face. The Conservative manifesto made a commitment to get one million more disabled people in work over the next ten years and to improve disabled people’s employment support. We have been campaigning over the last few years for the disability employment gap to be halved and for support for disabled people both in and out of work to be improved. We want to see a complete overhaul of the Work Capability Assessment as it does not currently identify all the barriers disabled people face to work.

Enable disabled people to live independently by increasing investment in social care and reforming the social care system so it better supports working age disabled people. Social care was a big issue at the election and all parties have talked about the need for change. However, we are concerned that working age disabled people have not been part of the public debate on this issue. Working age disabled people represent a third of social care users and we are clear that they must be listened to and that support must work for them.

Improve disabled people’s financial security. We know that life costs more if you are disabled. Disabled people on average spend £550 a month on costs related to their impairment or condition. The Conservative manifesto says the Government wants to “reduce the extra costs that disability can incur”.

We believe the Government should protect the value of disability benefits and develop a new Personal Independence Payment assessment which accurately identifies extra costs. It is also crucial that action is taken to ensure that the experiences of disabled consumers is improved. Disabled people’s households spend £249 billion a year, but all too often they receive a poor service from businesses.

Over the coming months as the Government sets out its plans, we will be working with MPs of all parties to ensure that these issues remain a priority and continue to campaign for everyday equality for disabled people.

Why the fashion industry needs to include disabled people

Meghan is studying fashion at the University of South Wales. For her end of year show she designed a sportswear line which is specifically adapted for different impairments. In this blog she talks about the reasons behind it and her hopes for the future.

At school I was good at Product Design and Art, so I knew I wanted to go into a form of design. I wouldn’t really say I was a big fashion person in the typical sense which is why I wanted to do sportswear – it’s design for a purpose.

Discovering a gap in the market

I’m in my third year now and I have to do a final collection. I started looking into adapted clothing and I discovered a massive gap in the market. A lot of the people I spoke to said that the clothing that is out there is quite unfashionable or really expensive. There’s not enough choice for them in mainstream fashion.

I feel like the fashion industry does forget disabled people. When it comes to adaptive clothing, there are maternity sections in shops but disability is almost completely forgotten about. All the clothing is just t-shirts and trousers, there’s nothing stylish, which is what they want.

 

Molly posing on the catwalk

In some ways it sends a negative message to disabled people regarding sports and they might not feel confident enough taking part in sports or going to the gym, especially if they are wearing something they aren’t comfortable in themselves. But I think there has been a change in attitudes more recently because I have been seeing more representation, but I also don’t know if that’s because I’m involved in it, so I’m noticing it more.

Accessibility can be an issue too. The girl who I have as my visually impaired model, she’s got her own business helping websites and apps make their stuff more accessible for disabled people.

Kyron posing on the catwalk

Developing my sportswear line

After talking to various people, I decided to design pieces to suit four different impairments: visual impairments, dwarfism, amputees and down’s syndrome. I got in contact with a charity called “Follow your Dreams” which is for people with down’s syndrome and learning difficulties. I went to a few focus groups with them to meet people who have down’s syndrome and to get information about what they would want out of clothing and sportswear. I also spoke to Disability Sport Wales.

The Fashion Show

For the show, I had four outfits shown and I used the same models that I’ve worked with on my photo-shoots. I’ve got Tony, who is a world champion athlete, Kyron who is a Paralympian. Molly, who has ushers syndrome and runs her own company – Molly Watts Ltd – and finally, Emily who has down’s syndrome. The show was on 26 May and was a great success.

I really wanted to have all disabled models because otherwise it would completely take away the impact. I just hope that I raise more awareness from it and show people what’s possible.

If you have an experience you’d like to share, get in touch with the Stories team.

Photos by Michaela Harcegova.

Disability hustings 2017 – Making sure disabled people are heard this election

On Tuesday we attended the national disability hustings in Westminster where 170 attendees had the opportunity to question the three main parties on their disability policy ahead of next week’s General Election. 

We organised this with a number of other disability charities because there are 13 million disabled people in the UK and we think it is important their voices are heard in this election.

A hustings is a meeting where candidates in an election meet potential voters, the disability hustings focused on some of the issues important to disabled voters.

The audience heard opening statements from the Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt, former shadow Women and Equalities Minister, Kate Green and President of the Liberal Democrats, Baroness Sal Brinton. They set out what policies they have included in their manifestos for disabled people and what their priorities would be if their party was elected.

The audience then had the opportunity to ask questions on three main areas agreed for the event; benefits, social care and employment. A number of questions were around the assessment process for both the Work Capability Assessment and Personal Independence Payments where people shared their experiences and thoughts on where change was needed.

Social care has been a big issue at this election and many disabled people aren’t getting the care and support they need. All three panelists recognised the problem and agreed that the social care system needs more funding.

Finally disabled people spoke about their experiences of looking for and being at work. Audience members and panelists discussed how employers can play a bigger role in recruiting and supporting disabled employees. Many people agreed on the importance role the Access to Work scheme plays.

What did we think?

We attended with three Scope storytellers, Michelle, Will and Jessica. We asked them afterwards why they came and what they thought of the hustings.

Will

Will is a games developer from London. He created parody of Channel 4’s Superhumans advert calling for better access, which went viral.

I came today because I really wanted to get a first-hand take on what the leading parties are saying around disability. It was a really interesting day.

I think a lot of the practicalities of being disabled maybe weren’t looked into but obviously so much of it is about money. It’s difficult to shy away from that. If you don’t have the resources, to start to talk about mindsets and attitudes is difficult because it feels like an ideology as opposed to a pragmatic task.

Jessica

Jessica is a vlogger and blogger who lives in Brighton.

I wanted to come today because it’s not always clear what each party thinks about disability issues. Those aren’t the topics that are generally covered on the nightly news, it’s not something they always debate or talk about very openly so we don’t generally know where all the parties stand on specific things.

I would have liked them to talk more about social issues. We talk a lot about social care but not about how each of the parties are going to be changing the rhetoric they use in order to combat social stigma.

Michelle

Michelle is a young campaigner who took part in Scope’s Scope for Change programme.

I struggle to work. It’s the whole idea that you almost become someone’s burden. I think that benefits should always be assessed on the person themselves and not on the surrounding situation.

I think they need to work a bit harder, so far so good, but they need to do more. Employment would be most important to me because I’m finding hard to look for a job.

There was lots of debate online about the hustings and you can look at the hashtag #disabilityhustings to find out more.

Find out what we’re calling on the next Government to do for disabled people and their families.