All posts by Anna Bird

Head of Research and Public Policy

Better living, higher standards: improving the lives of disabled people by 2020

2014 is a big year for Scope. Our new strategy is all about changing society and we have ambitious plans to make society a better place for disabled people. 20 years ago, we changed our name in a bid to take a stand against bad attitudes to disability. By ditching the name Spastics Society, we helped knock that insult out of circulation and got people questioning attitudes to disability.

But 20 years on, life is still tougher than it needs to be for disabled people who want the same things as everyone else. We’ve come a long way since our name change but there is still further to go.  There are still major issues when it comes to attitudes and these go hand in hand with policies and practises that undermine living standards.

Which is why our new report published today, Better living, higher standards: improving the lives of disabled people by 2020 (PDF), focuses on disabled people’s living standards and sets out clear recommendations for change.

Living standards are about a whole range of things that matter to people. It’s about opportunities to work, get out and about, and see friends and family.Alongside financial assets, income and jobs, we all depend on having skills we can use to learn or work. We rely on public services and on positive attitudes from family, friends and the wider community in which we live. All of these and more make up living standards for all of us.

Our report reveals that:

  • 42% of disabled people told us that they had lost out on a job because of the way employers perceived their impairment “every time” or “a lot of the time”.
  • Half of disabled people say that services they receive do not enable them to take part in community life.
  • Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people, and half (49%) of disabled people use credit cards or loans to pay for everyday items including clothing and food. Disabled people are three times more likely to draw on doorstep loans.
  • Disabled  adults spend an average of £550 per month on costs related to their disability.

The recent recession has had an impact on living standards for many people. But for disabled people, the struggle to make ends meet has always been a fact of life. As the economy recovers we are calling for all political parties to use this opportunity to make sure once and for all that disabled people can contribute to economic growth and have the same chances as everyone else.

If we want to improve disabled people’s living standards we need to fix the problem of extra costs, poor employment opportunities and poor social care. We also need to shift the attitudes that create many of these problems.We have to see these areas as linked – we can’t fix one without the other; and we need government action that ultimately improves disabled people’s living standards.

Life can cost more if you are disabled – let’s end the financial penalty by 2020

Let’s create a society in which the extra costs some disabled people face – such as paying for specialist equipment or for taxis due to inaccessible transport systems, are no longer a barrier to making an economic contribution or to social participation.

We are calling for the value of extra costs payments such as Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments to be protected. And in June 2014, Scope will be launching a Commission investigating the drivers of disability related costs and making recommendations on how to tackle them.

Let’s get a million more disabled people in work by 2020

Let’s create a society in which all types of work are available to everyone; a society in which disabled people have opportunities to be drivers of, and benefit from, new employment opportunities arising from economic growth.

We are calling for increased options to prevent people slipping out of the labour force unnecessarily and for new opportunities created through strategies for economic growth, such as City Deals, to work with, and include disabled people.

Let’s make sure all disabled people get the support they need to live as independently as possible

Let’s create a society in which more disabled people have the opportunity to live independently in the communities they choose and in which more working age disabled people can afford the care and support they need to live an independent life.

We are calling for a new financial settlement in the next Comprehensive Spending Review that ensures that everyone who is eligible for social care will get the support they need to live independently in the community. We also want to see greater focus on improving quality of care and support mechanisms, including through the integration of strategies on employment, health and social care to keep people in work, living in their own homes and preventing crisis.

The recovery gives us an opportunity to think differently: employers, public services, government, all of us. It’s an opportunity to make society work better for disabled people.

Let’s make sure disabled people aren’t left behind as the economy recovers.

A budget for savings, a resilient economy: what does that mean for disabled people?

On budget day, every interest group in the country will be sizing up the Chancellor’s words to see who are the winners and losers. Today, the two themes of Osborne’s 2014 budget are of real importance to disabled people: savings and resilience. But what impact will today’s announcement have on people’s lives?

Savings

Disabled people pay more for all kinds of everyday things, from taxi fares to work, to disability equipment, to higher energy bills – on average £550 per month.

The extra costs of disability prevent people from building up any sort of financial buffer against the unexpected. Research shows 85% of disabled people saved nothing in the past year; disabled people are three times more likely to take out doorstep loans than non-disabled people.

So a focus on savings is welcome, but before disabled people can benefit from what is on offer, we need to make it possible for disabled people to build financial assets.

20 years ago the Government brought in DLA to help disabled people meet the additional costs they face. It’s crucial that the Government protects this financial lifeline. But the cap on Annually Managed Expenditure (AME), which sets a limit on the amount government spends on welfare, could start to break the link between people’s need for financial support and the value of that support.

The Chancellor announced today that the cap would be set at £119billion in 2015-16 – equivalent to the value of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast for the coming year’s expenditure. This suggests there will be no additional cuts to the welfare budget in the coming year. But the devil will be in the detail. The way the cap works means that if spending on one benefit goes up – say housing benefit or Employment Support Allowance, there will be pressure for hasty policy decisions about how other spending an be limited to keep to the government’s target. We can only watch and wait to see how this plays out and what affect that will have on DLA/PIP over the years ahead. You can read more about our position on the welfare cap here.

Resilience

Today George Osborne talked a lot about resilience – building into the recovery some sort of protection against future risk. What does resilience mean for disabled people? It’s more than just the money in people’s pockets.

People’s ability to take up all of the opportunities life presents is based on a number of things – their income, yes – but also their family and friends, having a rewarding job, having access to services that meet their needs. Today there was recognition of the need to help people manage household finances through support for energy bills and fuel costs. There was the promise of 1.5 million extra jobs over the next 5 years – we have to push for those jobs to be available to disabled people. The missing link is investment in the infrastructure that is so key to many disabled people in building their resilience – funding for social care.

If we are to build a resilient economy, it has to be one in which everyone can play their part. Disabled people have an important role to play in the recovery – but today’s budget showed we still have a long way to go.