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We're all about changing society for the better, so that disabled people and their families can have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Reform is needed to halve the disability employment gap

The Government’s Green Paper consultation on Work, Health and Disability closed last week. Find out how we responded to the consultation and which areas we argued need action from the Government.

The Government has made a welcome commitment to halve the disability employment gap – the difference between the employment rate of disabled people and non-disabled people – which has stood at around 30 percentage points for over a decade. If the Government is serious about increasing disability employment, then it must tackle the barriers individuals face to entering, staying and progressing in work.

Improving out-of-work support

Too many disabled people aren’t getting support to get into and remain in employment. Where disabled people do access support, at Jobcentres or through employment support schemes, many feel it is too generic and does not take account of their needs or interests.

It is vital that all disabled people who want to work have access to voluntary, specialist support that is tailored to their needs. Taking part in any form of employment support should be completely voluntary for disabled people, and have no impact on the financial support they receive.

As well as this, Scope wants to see a total reform of the “fit for work” test, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which decides whether someone is able to receive Employment and Support Allowance.

Currently, the WCA fails to capture the range of barriers to work that disabled people face, which means many individuals are not getting the right support to move in to work. That’s why we’re calling for the WCA to be replaced with separate assessments for financial support and employment support needs.

Supporting disabled people in work

New research by Scope has found that in the last year 58 per cent of disabled people have felt at risk of losing their job because of their impairment or condition. That’s why it’s so important that once disabled people take up jobs, the right support is in place to enable them to stay in work.

Something we want to see is an expansion – and better promotion – of Access to Work, a scheme that provides disabled people with financial support to work. We also want to see the requirement to take Statutory Sick Pay in consecutive blocks to be lifted. This would give individuals more flexibility in taking time off from work, for example through part-time sickness absence or a phased return to work.

Working with employers to drive change

Efforts to halve the disability employment gap will only be successful if we see a shift in how disabled people are perceived in the workplace. The need for action is clear – 85 per cent of disabled people feel employer attitudes haven’t improved since 2012.

Building on progress made with other aspects of workforce diversity, employers should shift from compliance with the law to taking a more proactive approach to attracting, recruiting, supporting and developing disabled employees.

For instance, the Government’s Disability Confident scheme – which provides guidance to employers on hiring disabled people – has a Business Leaders Group which is well-placed to drive best practice among employers through new research and peer-to-peer networking. However, it is crucial that this group has sufficient scope and capability to realise such an ambition.

Next steps following the Green Paper

Scope welcomed the opportunity to respond to this Green Paper. However, this will only lead to change if Government and employers take meaningful steps to tackle the barriers disabled people face to entering and thriving in work.

Therefore, we would like to see a cross-government strategy for disability employment – presented as a White Paper – as soon as possible. This should include a range of reforms to support disabled people in and out of work, along with clear indicators to determine the success of these. It is vital that any proposals are informed by the experiences of disabled people.

Find out more about Scope’s work to tackle barriers to employment for disabled people.

Why we need to see changes in support for disabled people in work

Today we are publishing the findings of a poll which asked disabled people about their experiences of looking for work and being in employment. 58 per cent of disabled people have felt at risk of losing their job because of their impairment.

Tomorrow new statistics will be published that will unveil the size of the disability employment gap. This is the difference between the employment rate of disabled people and non-disabled people, which has remained at around 30 percentage points for over a decade.

The Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability was launched in October and outlines the Government’s thinking about the future of employment support. The accompanying consultation provides an excellent opportunity to feedback on the document and shape future Government policy but closes at the end of the week.

New findings on disabled people’s experiences in the workplace

We surveyed over 200 working-age disabled adults in employment and uncovered that 58 per cent of disabled people have felt at risk of losing their job because of their impairment. To address this, we would like to see Government introduce a new flexible approach towards sick leave and the Equality and Human Rights Commission publish a new code of practice on workplace adjustments.

Text reads: Fifty eight percent of disabled people have felt at risk of losing their job because of their disability
Source: Scope polling of 216 working age disabled adults in employment in England, December 2016

Our research also unearthed how one in five disabled people surveyed (18 per cent) had requested support or an adjustment but their employer didn’t provide them. Employers are legally required to try and make adjustments to support disabled people in the workplace. One in four disabled people (24 per cent) say their current employer does not support them to do their job.

Scope would like to see schemes which support disabled people in work, such as Access to Work, better funded and publicised so that employees and employers are more aware of their benefits.

Workplace bullying or harassment

Text reads: 53 per cent of disabled people have experienced bullying or harassment at work
Source: Scope polling of 216 working age disabled adults in employment in England, December 2016

Our research revealed that 53 per cent of disabled people have experienced bullying or harassment at work, 21 per cent of disabled people had been bullied by colleagues and 27 per cent had experienced bullying from their employer. One in five (21 per cent) go as far as not disclosing their disability to employers, whilst one in eight (13 per cent) of those disabled people we spoke to felt they had been overlooked for a promotion.

Government are rightly focussed on removing barriers to get more disabled people into work, but the barriers that prevent people from progressing and advancing their careers, once in work, must also be addressed. The Green Paper highlights the importance of working closer with employers and changing attitudes towards disability, so it’s important the Government improve conditions for disabled people in the workplace.

Government consultation on disability employment 

Scope want to see the Government deliver on its commitment to halve the disability employment gap and to deliver a strategy that tackles the barriers disabled people face to entering, staying and progressing in work.

The Green Paper is an opportunity for disabled people to share experiences of being in and out of work and feedback on the Government’s plans. At Scope, we think there remains a huge amount of work to be done to tackle the barriers disabled people face entering and staying in work. It’s vital that the whole Government now listens to disabled people’s views on how to do this.

Read more about how you can respond to the Green Paper consultation

The Green Paper doesn’t pay enough attention to the barriers that disabled people face

Having been born deaf, Natasha has always been interested in equality and social justice. She currently works as a photographer as well as an equalities consultant at Disability Wales/Anabledd Cymru. In this guest post Natasha gives her view on the Government’s plans for changing the support disabled people get in and out of work.

The UK Government has published the “Improving Lives: Work Health and Disability” Green Paper. This document highlights the issues of the disability employment gap, access to healthcare and employment support for disabled and people with long term health conditions.

There is much that can be said about the Green Paper, both bad and good.

Taking a medical model approach

The language of the Green Paper is very medical model and highly individualised. The social model of disability says that disability is caused by the way society is organised, whereas the medical model used here, says people are disabled by their impairments or differences.

Natasha smiling for the cameraIt is also a forceful advocate of the “work is good” mantra. They take care to qualify that by saying ‘good’ work, but most disabled people will be aware that the opportunities for good and meaningful work are far fewer for us. It isn’t simply a case of disabled people trying harder, taking pills or going to physio in order to be ‘fit to work’. It often feels that this is the focus of the Green Paper.

This serves to depoliticise disability and that is dangerous for us. We are not disabled by our impairments or health conditions, we are disabled by the external barriers and attitudes in the world around us. That is political. No one individual can change that. It takes all of us together as a political movement to challenge and change those barriers.

What isn’t included in the Green Paper?

Opportunities to work are heavily dependent on many other factors which are barely mentioned in the Green Paper. Do we live in accessible and safe housing? Do we have access to transport to get us to work and back? Are education and skills training opportunities accessible to us? Do we have appropriate support, whether in the form of PAs, social services or appropriate and timely healthcare?

If our most basic needs aren’t being met, the stress of just trying to get by from one day to the next is considerable. How then, are people to cope with the additional stress put on them by a benefits system which isn’t designed to accommodate their needs?

My view is that the Green Paper doesn’t pay enough attention to these extensive but often subtle barriers that disabled people face, whether in work or out of work.

Challenges for disabled people who want to work

For disabled people in work and for those who want to work, there are a range of issues. Do employers understand the importance of reasonable adjustments? Do they value the skills, experience and perspective that disabled people bring to their workforce? Do Jobcentres and Access to Work provide enough support? The answer for many is a clear “no”.

Negative attitudes towards disabled people are a problem, and one that the Government has arguably perpetuated in recent years. A huge culture change is needed to shift the views, aspirations and opportunities focused on disabled people.

The barriers we face go beyond access and attitudes to disabled people. We live in a culture that serves the employer and the profit margin. This is a culture that has created the growth of zero hours contracts; of low paid workers taking multiple jobs just to pay the rent and put food on the table; of a culture that values unhealthy presenteeism and excessive working hours. In short, society values money and not people.

Society values disabled people even less. When discussing disability, I so often find myself saying “if you improve the situation for disabled people, you improve it for everyone else too.” It is a point that too many still fail to understand.

An opportunity to influence change

On a more positive note, the Government is saying “here are some of the issues we’d like to address and we recognise we don’t have all of the answers”. That at least presents disabled people with an opportunity to influence change.

The lived experiences of disabled people are crucial in influencing change. It’s going to take a considerable effort by the Government, the Department for Work and Pensions and others to make good things happen for disabled who want to work. It’s going to take even more effort to create an environment where disabled people can trust the ‘system’ to be there to support and not sanction.

Please take the time to provide feedback or respond directly to the consultation. There are a number of ways you can do this.

To make the world of work better for disabled people, it needs to be better for everyone and there are bigger issues that sit outside of the remit of this Green Paper.

Take part in the Green Paper consultation which closes this Friday 17 February, and tell the Government what you think about the support disabled people get.

I’m throwing myself out of a plane for Scope!

Sophie’s brother Harry has cerebral palsy, and over the years her family have received advice and support from Scope. To say thanks, Sophie is taking on a exhilarating challenge. 

Hi! My name is Sophie Newton and I am almost a quarter of a century old. On 25 February 2017 I am throwing myself (probably ungracefully) out of a plane at 10,000ft to raise money for Scope.

Scope is a charity that is dear to the heart of my family, because of how they supported us when my brother Harry was small. Harry was born prematurely and suffered a starvation of oxygen to his brain. As a result he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Before I organised the Skydive for Scope, I told my parents of my plans and asked them to tell me their memories of Scope. They both laughed as they told me how when Harry was about 4 or 5, Scope sent him for psychological and physical assessments to evaluate his impairment. During the stay, my parents and Harry were having a meal and Harry spasmed and the potato on his fork flew into the air and into someone’s cup of tea! When Harry and I were younger and my parents didn’t have much money, Scope took us on holiday in Bridlington – we had a great time.

Hair-raising fundraising

Harry is now 26 and uses a wheelchair due to his condition. He has limited movement in his legs and struggles with the everyday tasks which I take for granted. When Harry was young, my parents reached out for advice and support, which Scope provided with willingness and kindness. My parents have fond memories of Scope and the support they gave our family; from arranging psychological and physical assessments for Harry to taking us on a family holiday in Bridlington. Having a personal connection to Scope made it even more special, and what better way to raise money than by doing something hair raising!

Life has been, and is still quite tough for us, Harry and many other families with a disabled parent, child or sibling. Scope provided support and advice during dark days when Harry was young and offer support to countless others.

Fundraising for Scope is a fantastic way for me to show my gratitude and to raise more awareness of the work that Scope does for disabled people and their families.

An accepting and accessible society

Sophie smiling and cuddling a dogScope champion change so that one day we will live in a society that is accepting and accessible for disabled people. A society which views disabled people as individuals with unique characteristics.

I am excited for this opportunity to aid Scope is doing this and hope I can raise enough to show my gratitude and support of their amazing work.

You can sponsor Sophie’s Skydive on her Do It For Charity page.

Want to take on a hair-raising challenge like Sophie? Sign up to a skydive today.

Nothing will change until disabled people are included in identifying the barriers they face getting into work

Jane Hatton runs Evenbreak, an award-winning not-for-profit job board run by and for disabled people. It helps inclusive employers who understand the benefits of employing disabled people to access that talent pool. In this guest post, Jane explains some of her concerns about the government’s plans for “Improving Lives” with its latest consultation on disabled people and employment

The Evenbreak logoJane runs Evenbreak lying flat, as her spinal condition makes sitting difficult.

As a disabled woman running an inclusive not-for-profit job board for disabled candidates, I welcome any initiative which reduces disabling barriers in the workplace. The new green paper, “Improving Lives”, should therefore warm the cockles of my heart.

However, I have some grave doubts about some of its suggestions.

Reducing the disability employment gap

The government’s laudable aim is to halve the gap between the number of non-disabled people who are employed (80 per cent) and the number of disabled people who are employed (48 per cent).

However, if we continue with current approaches, reducing the gap from 32 per cent to 16 per cent will take nearly 50 years. Drastic action is required.

The government are right that they need to take action to reduce the disability employment gap. I’m not keen on putting a figure on it, because I believe disabled people should have exactly the same opportunity to be given a job they are capable of doing as a non-disabled person, not just a less-worse chance. There is plenty they could do.

Appropriate work

The green paper talks nauseatingly often about the evidence that shows “appropriate work is good for our health”. As a general principle, whilst remembering that a significant number of people are unable to work or for whom working would be damaging to their health, I can mostly go along with this.

However, the crucial word here is “appropriate”. For many people, their working conditions have contributed to their impairments (e.g. nurses, paramedics and labourers with back injuries, or people working in stressful conditions with mental health issues). My concern is that “appropriate work” will be misinterpreted as “any work being good for everyone”.

The challenge that our candidates face is finding employment which is appropriate for them, with employers who are prepared to be flexible in both their recruitment processes and working patterns.

What changes should the government make?

Any measures to help disabled people into work should only apply to those who are really able to work (as opposed to many of those that Work Capability Assessments have deemed fit for work who clearly aren’t).

Some of our candidates struggle to find the bus fare to attend interviews. Social security needs to reflect the fact that people who are worrying about bedroom tax, benefit caps, sanctions, social care, food banks and homelessness are not in a good position to be looking for jobs.

People who rely on Motability to travel around should be assured of that facility. Someone who is unable to use public transport is unlikely to be able to look for or travel to and from work without a suitable alternative.

Leading by example

The government itself is a huge employer. It should be leading the way in inclusive employment and removing barriers in the workplace. However, in my experience, it is the private sector who are much more willing to, for example, use our specialist disability job board. Very few public sector organisations have used Evenbreak.

The answer to this complex issue is relatively straightforward. If the public sector – all government departments, all NHS trusts and local authorities – were to remove disabling barriers in their organisations and encourage all their supply chains to do the same, there would be a rapid change in workplace culture.

Investing in support

Support to help disabled people into work is already happening successfully in many DPULOs (disabled people’s user-led organisations) up and down the country. Resources could be distributed to increase this valuable provision more widely.

Including disabled people

Most of the problems occur through non-disabled people making and implementing decisions based on what they think disabled people want and need. Nothing much will change until disabled people are included in identifying the barriers and in making decisions about removing them. Until then, “Improving Lives” is unlikely to apply to disabled people.

Would you like to respond to the Government’s plans?

Anyone can give feedback to the Improving Lives Green Paper.

The paper is available in a range of accessible formats, and people can respond online or by post by Friday 17 February.

If you’d like to let the government know what you think about being disabled and finding work read our blog on how to respond to the consultation.

I was told I may never walk again – now I’m going to run a Half Marathon!

Erika was told eight years ago she may never walk again. She talks about the barriers, attitudes and challenges she has had to overcome from day to day. Now she faces her biggest challenge yet – running a half marathon.

I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and a form of Dysautonomia called Postural Orthostatic Tachychardia Syndrome (PoTS). My autonomic nervous system does not work leaving my body unable to control basic functions such as heart rate, digestion and blood pressure. My connective tissue is also faulty; it is weak and stretchy causing daily dislocations and pain and exhaustion just to name a few. When I was 12 I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), due to this I lost the use of both my arms and legs, I was told I would never walk again.

Social pressures and attitudes

Love it or hate it social perceptions surround us everywhere we go, overflowing our brains like a virus on an unsuspecting computer. Without realising, judgements are made on a person’s abilities and circumstances without real knowledge. Embarrassment, awkwardness, isolation; formed from age old perceptions and misunderstanding, feeding down through generations, effecting perceptions today. You ask why and you’re told “It’s just the way it is”.

The frustration runs through our veins like the harshest river, everyday willing the banks to burst, for reality to prevail and everyone to see we are human too. Constantly having to prove ourselves twice over, opening up our souls to strangers in a futile attempt to prove we are more than a malfunctioning body, more than a pity case, more than our disability.

What do you think of when you hear the word disability?

When you hear that word, what first comes to mind?

“I feel sorry for you.”
“You’re so brave.”
“I’m so lucky I’m not like you.”
“What kind of life is it to be like that every day.”
“You’re not living, you’re surviving.”
“I hope my children are not like you.”

For many it is these six heartbreaking quotes. For too many people, a person with a disability is seen as someone who is surviving, not living. A person saddened and ruined by their circumstances.

However to me, my disability made me the person I am today.

The person who gives everyone a chance, no matter what their past.
The person who works tirelessly every day to achieve my goals.
The person who knows the sky is the limit.
The person who is a dancer.
The person who is understanding.
The person who is training for a half marathon.

It is now 8 years after being told I may never walk again and I am currently training for a half marathon which I will be completing in aid of Scope.

Feet of disabled woman training

A half marathon for me will be an extremely physically and mentally tough journey. I don’t mean it’ll just be a little tiring, I mean one of the toughest things I will ever do!

So, why do it then?

Good question!

I have grown up in a society where disability and illness are a taboo. A vast majority of people assume that illness and/or disability mean you can no longer live a fulfilling life and that you definitely can’t do sport. This made life growing up with a disability hard for me, and even more so when I fell very ill two years ago. I felt consumed by hopelessness, overcome by the unknown, realising the things I would never do. Social perception cemented this belief in my mind, pushing me every day to give up. Telling me it was “just the way it is”.

The thing about disability is it makes us powerful. It provides knowledge of issues much wider than our own. Opens our mind to what life really is and that it is up to us to form our own future. If we are able to overcome what society dictates we should and should not be able to do then we can do absolutely anything.

So I am determined to do this half marathon! Training will be hard for me, I know that. I also know that there will be times that my health will go downhill, I will be scared, upset, angry and want to give up. There will be days when I will think it is impossible.

But I will remember the power I have. And I will remember the little girl with Downs Syndrome I used to teach dance to and the many other disabled children out there with so much passion, enthusiasm and raw talent. And I will do it for them. I will aim to change social perception so that they can grow up with less of a fight, knowing that just because you may be disabled or chronically ill it doesn’t mean you can’t do something, just that you may have to do it in a different way.

Feelling motivatedby Erika’s story? Take a look at some of our challenge events today

Our priorities – influencing government in 2017

It already seems that Brexit is set to be the biggest political story of 2017 with the Government expected to trigger Article 50, beginning the formal process of the UK leaving the European Union, by the end of March. We think it is really important that disabled people’s voices are heard as part of this process and vital that progress towards equality made in recent years is not lost.

There will also be plenty of other important moments throughout the year and we will be working hard, with you, to make sure issues which affect disabled people’s lives stay high on the political agenda.

Social Care

Social care was hitting the headlines at the end of 2016, with warnings from the Local Government Association and Care Quality Commission that the system is in crisis. With the Government accepting a long-term solution to care funding needs to be found, social care is likely to remain high on the political agenda in 2017. Some additional funding will enter the system this year through an increase in council tax and from the Better Care Fund, but with a funding gap of £4.6 billion, this won’t provide the long term solution needed to meet rising demand and costs.

Social care is the support disabled people rely on to get up, get dressed, get out, and lead independent lives. Without that support disabled people can become isolated, can’t contribute to society and risk slipping into crisis. That’s why we are campaigning for long-term and adequate funding for care. Over 400,000 working age disabled people rely on social care, and with much of the recent focus on how care affects older people, we will be continuing to raise awareness with decision makers of disabled people as users of social care. 55 per cent of disabled care users tell us the system never supports their independence, so we are campaigning for a care system which supports disabled people to live independently and have choice and control over their care.

Employment

In February the Government’s consultation on disability, health and work will close. We want to see the Government take the opportunity to bring about real reform of the support disabled people receive both in and out of work.

The Government announced in October last year that people with severe conditions will receive continued Employment Support Allowance without needing repeated Work Capability Assessments. This is a welcome change but we want to see the Government go further in 2017 and completely overhaul the Work Capability Assessment so that it identifies the full range of barriers disabled people face to work.

We believe disabled people must be protected from any additional conditions linked to the support they receive. We would campaign against any attempts to impose requirements on disabled people receiving support.

The Government want to hear from disabled people about their experiences of employment support services and at work. Read more about how you can submit evidence to the consultation. Later in the year we are expecting the Government to publish a more detailed plan about how they intend to reform support for disabled people following the consultation, and at Scope we will be pushing for swift action.

Employers also have a key role to play in halving the disability employment gap. 85 per cent of disabled people think employer attitudes haven’t improved over the last four years and more needs to be done to encourage employers to create flexible modern practices. The Government should set out a long-term vision for Disability Confident this year and develop a campaign promoting the business benefits of disability employment.

Despite significant pressure on the Government from MPs from all political parties, the reduction in financial support for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group of Employment Support Allowance is going ahead in April 2017. We will continue to raise concerns about the harmful impact this will have on disabled people and call on the Government to reserve this decision.

Extra costs

Following the publication of the Extra Costs Commission Progress Review in late 2016, we’ll be continuing to campaign to drive down the extra costs disabled people face and working with businesses in a range of sectors to look at ways they can provide a better service for their disabled customers.

In 2017 we expect government to announce a consultation on consumer and market policy. We’ll be continuing to campaign for markets to work better for disabled people, and for a cross-governmental approach to tackle the range of costs faced by disabled people.

We are also expecting the Government to publish their second independent review into Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which will include recommendations for reform, particularly around the assessment process. We want to see the assessment for PIP more accurately capture the range of extra costs disabled people face from higher energy bills to the need for specialised equipment. Given that disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on disability related costs it is vital that the value of PIP is protected.

In 2017 we want to see long-term funding for social care so that all disabled people who need support can get it, reforms announced that will support more disabled people in employment and to halve the disability employment gap and the protection of financial support for disabled people. We will be working closely with disabled people to continue to raise these issues with the Government.

2016 in parliament – Our impact

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

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.

Extra Costs

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.

Employment

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.

 Read more of our policy blogs.

Disability – the untold story behind the UK’s shocking levels of poverty

Last week The Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report that suggested half of people living in poverty are either themselves disabled or are living with a disabled person in their household.

In this guest post Helen Barnard, Head of Analysis at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation looks the extra costs and challenges disabled people face in Britain today. 

In recent years, there have been many high-profile debates and scandals about disability – flawed work capability assessments, cuts to benefits, the stubbornly large employment gap.  At the same time, concern about poverty has also peaked at various times, notably in relation to the record number of people in working poverty and soul searching about the reasons for the Brexit vote in June.

Two reports this year have laid bare the extent to which disabled people and carers carry the burden of the UK’s high poverty rates.  In the summer we funded the New Policy Institute to write a report examining in depth the links between poverty and disability. This week JRF published our annual monitoring report which set these findings in the context of the overall picture of poverty in the UK over the last decade.

The headline finding is shocking – nearly half of people in poverty are disabled themselves or live in a household with someone who is disabled. That is 3.9 million disabled people and 2.7 million people who live with someone who is disabled. However, the real situation is even worse than this suggests

The disadvantage disabled people face

Disabled people face a triple disadvantage: they are less likely to be in work, they are less likely to have higher qualifications and they are more likely to be low paid, even when they do have good qualifications. Successive governments have focused on employment and skills as the routes out of poverty.  That makes sense for many families – getting into work and then improving your pay is the most reliable way to a better standard of living, although most families need to have at least one full time and one part time worker to escape poverty. But it is not yet working for the 3.8 million workers in poverty (up by a million in the last decade), or for many lone parents and households with young children or disabled members.

The second reason for the greater deprivation faced by disabled people and their families is that they face higher costs than non-disabled people. Scope’s Extra Costs work has highlighted life costs more if you’re disabled – £550 a month more. These costs can range from needing specific equipment or appliances, to having higher heating bills because of reduced mobility.  This means that the same income provides a disabled people with a lower standard of living than it would for a non-disabled person.  There are benefits intended to address this, but the analysis in our reports shows that these are not fully covering the extra costs – meaning that disabled people have to cut back on other essentials. .

Solving poverty

Earlier this year the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published our Strategy to Solve Poverty. This set out a detailed plan to solve poverty across the UK by boosting incomes and reducing costs, delivering and effective benefit system, improving skills, strengthening families, and promoting long-term economic group benefiting everyone. Many disabled people and their families face considerable challenges in achieving these goals – changing this should be at the heart of a drive to end poverty.

The Government is prioritising reducing the disability employment gap. Their Green Paper is a welcome start to this, but it also shows how much further it has to go to put together a concrete plan to ‘transform employment prospects’ for disabled people. In recent months, the Government has signaled its openness to change by ending the requirement for repeated testing of people with severe conditions and no hope of getting better.

However, far more fundamental change is needed. The planned cut to Employment Support Allowance for people placed in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ should be reversed: people claiming this benefit tend to be out of work for far longer than those claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance and this cut risks tipping them into destitution. The Work Capability Assessment also requires reform, which should fully involve disabled people and incorporate a real world assessment of the type of work people would actually be able to do.

When Prime Minister May entered Downing Street she promised to create a country that works for everyone and to “fight against the burning injustices” of poverty, race, class and health and give people back “control” of their lives.  The Prime Minister will find it difficult to fulfil this pledge without a serious plan to enable nearly four million disabled people and their families to escape poverty and build a decent, secure life for themselves.

Visit Scope’s website to find out why life costs more if you’re disabled.

Tell the Government what you think about the support disabled people get

The Government want to know what you think about their plans for changing the support disabled people get in and out of work. Find out how you can get involved. 

They want feedback on their proposals, and will be accepting views until Friday 17 February 2017. Anyone can respond to the set of questions they are asking. We’ve set out information on how you can respond to the consultation with your views.

First, you might want to read Scope’s blog for more information on what is included in the Green Paper. The Green Paper is available on the Government website in Plain English, Easy Read, braille and BSL.

Why should you respond?

The Government want to hear from you about your experiences of employment support services, experiences at work and how you think they can be improved. This is your chance to tell the Government what you think of their proposals and share your experiences and ideas for how workplaces and employment support can be improved for disabled people.

The questions cover important areas such as how the Jobcentre can provide the right support, what employers need to do as well as the kinds of in-work support that disabled people would like.

What will happen to your response?

The Government will analyse all the responses they get and decide which of the proposals they should continue with. They normally release a document setting out key themes from responses where lots of respondents were in agreement. They then decide on their next steps – for example which proposals to amend and which to no longer continue with – and published a more detailed document about their plans. This more detailed document forms the basis of the new legislation with Government will pass to enact their changes.

Your response, or part of your response, could be made public although it wouldn’t be attributed to you by name.

What to think about when writing your response

  • Include evidence – Try to back up your responses to questions with evidence. Examples from your personal experiences are a valuable form of evidence.
  • Answer what matters to you – Don’t be put off by questions which aren’t relevant. You can respond to as many questions as you want, so choose the parts that matter to you. If you want to mention something not directly covered by one of the questions, it’s fine to add this in or say if you think the Government have missed an important area.
  • Keep it clear – Write as much or as little as you want for each question but try to keep your points clear and explain the background to any specific examples, such as the particular service you were using or trying to access e.g. Access to Work.
  • Suggest ideas – The Government are looking for better ways of providing support so if you have an idea about what would help you or how you would change the system make sure to suggest it.

How to respond

There are a number of ways you can respond to the consultation:

Responding online

The online consultation form is hosted on the Department of Health website. This shows a landing page with a list of options.

The first of these is called “About you” and is mandatory. If you are responding as an individual you should select the ‘questions for individuals’ which will bring up 33 questions. You can choose which questions to respond to.

Fill in the consultation form online.

Responding by email

You can also send an email with your response, with an attached Word Document to workandhealth@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.

Responding by post

You can post your submission to:

The Work, Health and Disability Consultation,
Ground Floor, Caxton House,
6-12 Tothill Street,
London,
SW1H 9NA

If you have any further questions please contact Melanie Wilkes, Policy Adviser on melanie.wilkes@scope.org.uk