Category Archives: News and politics

“We all want to be a part of society don’t we?” Addressing loneliness in disabled people

Yesterday we attended the launch of Sense’s report for the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. Their research found that over half of disabled people (53 per cent) say they feel lonely, which rises to 77 per cent for young disabled people. In this blog Scope storyteller and autism advocate, Carly Jones, shares her experiences and ideas for change.

I was really honoured to be invited by Scope to come to this event. As Jo Cox so eloquently put it when she was alive, you think of loneliness and you think of older people, we don’t think of children and young adults. But I know from my personal experience, and the autistic community as a whole, that we are extremely isolated.

My experiences of loneliness

I didn’t get my autism diagnosis until I was 32. You can read more about it in my last blog for Scope. I remember feeling very different at school. I was really anxious. I started realising that I never got invited to birthday parties. I was pretty aware by the time I was in my late 20s that I was autistic, but without a diagnosis it was like being in “no man’s land”.

When I finally got my diagnosis, I filmed it with the help of the National Autistic Society so that no-one else would have to go through this alone, because I felt so alone.

Getting my diagnosis changed things for the better because I could start going to autistic events without feeling like a fraud.  My advocacy work has really helped me find people who understand disability or other autistic people who just get it because they’re autistic too, and you can become friends. So my advocacy work has actually been my social life line. People say “Oh you’re so selfless” and I’m like “No, doing this helps me get out of the house and meet people too!”

Carly smiling with Mel and Juliet from Scope
Carly Jones with Scope staff

Three ideas to address loneliness in disabled people

Better representation in the media: If there’s an autistic person on TV usually it’s a boy who’s about 8-years-old and into trains! It’s really not helping. It’s isolating the thousands of autistic women and girls in the UK who are struggling to have their needs met in everyday society. We need a autistic girl in a big show like Eastenders, who has challenges but strong and sassy.

The education system needs to improve:  Schools need to be more holistic in their approach to difference and really nurture talent. You get awards for being good at maths but what about the artists, the philosophers, the big thinkers, the social entrepreneurs?

I had a really difficult time at school because I struggled with the environment, but teachers just thought I was being naughty. When your needs are not being met it can lead to mental health problems and vulnerability. A lot of the children who come to the events are home educated because they’re not “autistic enough” for a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school but they can’t get the support they need in mainstream school. That can be incredibly isolating too.

More social opportunities: I run a bi-weekly group for young autistic people.  The stereotype is that we never get invited to things so, with the events that I put on, we go to some really cool places and they can invite whoever they like – autistic, disabled, non-disabled. Hopefully their friends will then grow up not seeing autism as this stigmatised thing but thinking “I had an autistic friend in school and we did some really cool things”.

Adults need better groups too. Sometimes you’ll see events for autistic adults and it’s just basically what you would have for a child but for an older audience. You know, we are cool, quite cool and we are adults in our own right and we are responsible people. I think if there were more clubs – which are affordable – there would be more opportunities to meet people.

woman standing in front of a poster holding a magazine
Carly Jones, Autism Advocate

We all want to be a part of society don’t we?

It was fantastic to be at this event. I’ve already got so many emails in my mind that I want to send! Everybody genuinely wanted to hear other people’s stories. The fact that it’s cross party, cross charity, working together, is really fantastic. We all want to be a part of society don’t we? As someone said, it’s not a 10 year solution, it’s more like 40 year solution, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get there.

From 10 July to 13 August, Sense will be leading a coalition of disability organisations, including Scope, to shine a spotlight on the issue of loneliness for disabled people and the steps that we can all take to help tackle it. Head to the website to find out how you can get involved.

If you have a story you would like to share, get in touch with Scope’s stories team. 

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.

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.

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.

How the next Government can make Everyday equality a reality

In just six weeks’ time voters will go to the polls to have their say in the General Election. 

Today we are setting out our calls for the next government – commitments and changes we are asking for so that by 2022 disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else: Everyday equality.

We know that in 2017, life is still much harder for many disabled people than it needs to be. Too often disabled people can’t access the support they need to at home, in education or work and face negative attitudes, extra costs and pressures on family life.

Action is needed in a range of areas which is why we would like the next government to take a cross-government approach to disability which tackles the barriers that prevent disabled people from participating fully in society.

Today we are calling for action in three main areas:

Improving disabled people’s work opportunities

Text on infographic reads: Disabled people are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people

Many disabled people want to work but continue to face huge barriers without the support they need to find, stay and progress in work. The disability employment gap – the difference between the employment rates for disabled and non disabled people – has stood at over 30 percentage points for over a decade and less than half of disabled people are in work.

We are calling on the next government to commit to halving the disability employment gap and report publicly on the progress it is making towards this target. We also want to see reforms to the support disabled people receive in and out of work, including the Work Capability Assessment, changes to sick pay and ending benefit sanctions.  It is vital that the government also provide better careers advice, work experience and opportunities for apprenticeships for young disabled people.

Ensuring disabled people have support to live independently

Social care plays an important role in supporting many disabled people to live independently, work, build relationships and be part of their local communities. However, we know that over half of disabled social care users aren’t getting the support they need to live independently.  We believe the next government should invest in social care so that disabled people of all ages get the support they need.

It’s also vital that the government tackles the barriers disabled people face getting online as just 25 per cent of disabled adults have never used the internet compared to 8 per cent of non-disabled adults. The next government should commit to improving digital skills and increasing digital accessibility.

Improving disabled people’s financial security

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

Disabled people spend on average £550 a month on costs related to their impairment or condition. Extra costs may include specialist equipment or higher heating bills.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is vital in helping disabled people meet some of these costs. Many disabled people face difficulties when applying for PIP and the assessment decision is often overturned at a later date.

We would like to see the next government protect the value of PIP and develop a new assessment that more accurately identifies the extra costs disabled people face.

Disabled people often have negative experiences as consumers and receive a poor service from businesses. That’s despite disabled people’s households spending £249 billion a year. Therefore, we are calling on businesses and regulators to improve the experiences of disabled customers and give greater consideration to how they can support them.

There are 13 million disabled people in Britain – a hugely significant number of votes – and 89 per cent of voting age disabled people have said they will vote at the next election. We are calling on all candidates to listen to and engage with disabled people and for whoever is next in government to deliver that strategy which will achieve everyday equality for disabled people.

Throughout the election look out for opportunities to engage with your local candidates at events, hustings and talk to them about what everyday equality means for you.

Infographic with text: There are 13million disabled people in the UK - 21 per cent of the UK population

Find out more about how you can register to vote in this election in our latest blog and share on social media what everyday equality means for you by using the hashtag #Everydayequality. 

General election 2017: Make sure your voice is heard

Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap general election to take place on Thursday 8 June.  Find out how you can vote in this blog. 

The next Government has an opportunity to tackle the barriers faced by disabled people and help deliver everyday equality by 2022.

It’s important that the voices of disabled people are heard in this election. Voting, as well as taking part in election events in your local area, gives you the chance to tell politicians what’s important to you and what you would like to see them do.

All polling stations should be wheelchair accessible and support disabled voters.  If you need to use a disabled parking space, these should be clearly visible and monitored throughout the day.

There are lots of ways you can be supported to cast your vote inside a polling station:

  • If you cannot mark your ballot paper, members of staff called Presiding Officers may mark your ballot paper for you. You may also attend the polling station with someone who you would like to mark your ballot paper on your behalf.
  • Polling stations should provide tactile voting devices. The tactile voting device attaches on top of your ballot paper. It has numbered flaps (the numbers are raised and are in braille) directly over the boxes where you mark your vote.
  • Polling stations should provide large print versions of ballot papers.

Polling stations should be accessible for everyone wishing to vote. If for whatever reason your local polling station isn’t accessible, Presiding Officers should provide you with a ballot paper and allow you to vote outside of the polling station. Find out more information about what happens at polling stations.

If you visit a polling station and find it inaccessible, you can complain to your local authority.

The Budget 2017 – What does it mean for disabled people?

The Chancellor Philip Hammond has delivered the Spring Budget today. In this blog we look at the impact the budget will have on disabled people across the country. 

Ahead of today we were calling for sustainable investment in social care, a reversal of the reduction in financial support for those in the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG) and for Government to think again on changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

The Budget contained some positive news for disabled people on social care yet we were disappointed by the Government’s failure to mention, let alone reconsider, upcoming changes to disability benefits.

Social care

Following calls from disabled people, charities, MPs and local councils, the Government has provided a cash injection of £2 billion for social care over the next three years.

We hope this is good news for the 400,000 working age disabled people who rely on social care for assistance with everyday tasks such as cooking and getting dressed.

We were really disappointed when there was no further funding announced for social care in the Autumn Statement and so we are pleased that the Government has listened to calls for urgent funding.

The care system has been under immense financial strain over the past few years, with the adult social care budget reduced by £4.6 billion since 2010. £1 billion of new funding will be available this year, yet the King’s Fund has predicted the funding gap for this period will be nearly twice that at £1.9 billion.

The Government also today announced a Green Paper on social care, we will be campaigning to make sure this consultation and following action focuses on how the social care system will provide the support and outcomes important to disabled people.

Financial security

PIP is intended to help disabled people cover some of the extra costs they face as a result of their disability, on average, £550 a month. Therefore we think it is vital PIP focuses on the extra costs disabled people actually face, and not their impairment or condition. We are concerned about the Government’s move to tighten up access to PIP and have been speaking to Ministers and MPs about our concerns since the legislation was announced.

We wanted to see the Government use the Budget to reconsider this change and take the opportunity to review the PIP assessment process. Our helpline has seen a 542 per cent increase in calls relating to PIP over the last year, with many people successfully appealing their original decision.

We are disappointed the Government intends to go ahead with these changes, and will keep raising our concerns with Government.

Employment

The Government has made a welcome commitment to halve the disability employment gap and we’ve been working hard over the last year to set out the reforms needed for disabled people both in and out of work to help make this goal a reality.

However, next month new claimants in the ESA WRAG will see a £30 a week reduction in their financial support. We don’t think that this will help disabled people find work and have been campaigning against these changes since they were first announced. Disabled people are already less financially resilient than non-disabled people, with an average of £108,000 fewer savings and assets. A reduction in financial support could end up creating an additional barrier to work.

We are concerned the Government are pressing ahead with this reduction. Having missed the opportunity to halt the reduction in the Budget, we, alongside other disability charities, will continue to push for this to happen before the change takes effect.

The Prime Minister has set out her vision of a country that works for everyone, yet following this Budget there is much more that needs to be done to include specific needs of disabled people in that vision. We’ll continue campaigning on all of these issues and more to make this case.

Budget 2017 – Will it deliver for disabled people?

The Budget outlines the Government’s spending priorities for the year. How can the chancellor Philip Hammond make his first budget work for disabled people? 

Ahead of the Budget next Wednesday (8 March) we’ve been responding the Government’s announcement that they intend to tighten up access to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) following two court rulings which widened access. We are really concerned that this could lead to disabled claimants missing out on the financial support they rely on to live independently.

We have spoken to MPs and Ministers about this change. It has also been debated in Parliament and raised in Prime Minister’s Questions. Disabled people spend around £550 a month on costs related to their disability and on average are less financially resilient than non-disabled people.

That’s why PIP, which helps disabled people meet some of these extra costs, is so important.

We want the Government to clarify the numbers of people who won’t be eligible for PIP following their decision and we have made them aware of our concerns. The PIP assessment must focus on the extra costs people face not their impairment.

In the Budget the Government should provide more reassurance that the financial support disabled people receive now or in the future will not be negatively affected.

We also want them to take action to drive down the extra costs disabled people face, properly fund social care and provide support for disabled people both in and out of work. We responded to the Government’s consultation on employment and submitted these points to the Treasury.

The extra costs disabled people face

As well has helping disabled people to meet the extra costs they face by protecting PIP, it is also important the Government take action to drive them down. We’ve asked the Government to develop a cross-Government strategy to tackle extra costs. We also want them to draw up a definition of a vulnerable consumer – with a particular focus on the energy industry – to ensure consistency in the support provided for disabled energy consumers.

Social care

The funding crisis in social care has remained high on the political agenda this year. Along with a number of MPs, local councils and other charities we have been calling on the Government to provide the social care system with the funding it so urgently needs.

400,000 working age disabled people rely on social care support for everyday tasks such as cooking and washing. It’s vital that everyone who needs it is able to access good quality social care that supports them to live independently. When we asked disabled social care users about their experiences of care, over half told us their care never supports their independence.

The Government has already committed to a review of social care. This is welcome but they must consult with and listen to disabled social care users as part of that review, something we have asked them to do.

It has been widely reported the Budget will include some money for social care and we hope will be used to improve care for disabled people. However, a short-term injection of cash won’t be enough. We need to see the Chancellor set out a sustainable long-term plan for funding social care as demand continues to grow.

Employment

Last year the Government launched a consultation on the support disabled people receive to find, stay and progress in work. That consultation closed last month and we want the Government to use the Budget as an opportunity to set out what they’ll be doing next. We want to see a package of real reforms set out in a White Paper as soon as possible.

Read more about what we said to Government on the specific changes.

We also want to see the Government halt a proposed financial reduction to people who receive Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

From 1 April this year new claimants will receive £30 a week less than current claimants. We don’t think that will help disabled people to find jobs, it will just make life harder.

Scope has been campaigning against this reduction since it was initially proposed and this is the Governments last chance to act.

On the day we’ll be tweeting as the Budget takes place and sharing our response to key announcements on the website. 

PIP is a lifeline for disabled people and needs to be protected

We know that life costs more if you’re disabled. Personal Independence Payments (PIP) play a key role in helping disabled people to manage some of these extra costs.

Last week the Government announced plans to tighten up access to PIP. We are concerned that this reduction in financial support will make it harder for many disabled people to live independent and fulfilling lives.

The extra costs of disability

Scope research shows disabled people spend on average £550 a month on costs related to their impairment or condition. For one in 10, these costs amount to £1,000 a month.

The additional costs disabled people face broadly fall into three categories:

  • Expensive purchases of specialised equipment, such as wheelchairs or screen readers.
  • Greater use of non-specialised goods and services, such as energy or taxis and private hire vehicles.
  • Paying more for non-specialised goods and services, such as insurance or higher tariffs for accessible hotel rooms.

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 a job, access education and training opportunities, pay into savings and pensions, and participate fully in their community.

The role of PIP

The role of PIP – and its predecessor Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – is to support disabled people to meet the additional costs of disability.

Unlike other aspects of the welfare system, PIP is not an income replacer like Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseeker’s Allowance, nor is it designed to boost people’s income when wages are low like tax credits. It serves to level the playing field between disabled people and non-disabled people by helping to tackle the financial penalty of disability.

This puts disabled people in a stronger position to contribute to, and benefit from economic growth as employees, savers and consumers. In research we carried out with over 500 recipients of either PIP or DLA, over half said that PIP was important in helping them to work. A further 58 per cent said that even a small reduction in their PIP award would have a significant impact on their ability to live independently.

Our concerns with proposed changes to PIP

Scope has welcomed previous commitments by Government to protect the value of PIP and keep it free from any taxation or means-testing.

However, last week proposed changes to PIP regulations were announced that would make it harder for many disabled people to score points for certain descriptors in the assessment.

This follows two recent legal judgements which ruled in favour of awarding higher points during a PIP assessment for people who need help taking medication, or who can’t travel alone due to “psychological distress”.

Since the announcement, Scope has received a number of queries through its helpline, online community, social media and customer contact teams from current disabled claimants who are worried about whether these new changes would affect them.

A new PIP assessment

We are concerned that the changes Government are proposing make a crude distinction between those with physical impairments and mental health problems, which will lead to many disabled people missing out on vital financial support with disability-related costs.

However, we know that someone’s impairment or condition is not an accurate indicator of the additional costs they face. Disabled people have unique experiences of additional costs, which often arise as a result of barriers to participating fully in society. For instance, somebody with an anxiety disorder who finds it difficult using public transport may have to consequently spend more on taxis to get around.

We want to see reform of the PIP assessment so that it accurately captures the range and level of disabled people’s extra costs. Disabled people with lived experience of these costs should be directly involved in designing and setting a new assessment criteria.

What Scope is doing

We are calling on Government to think again about these changes and are briefing government officials about why it is so important that they don’t go ahead.

Our Chief Executive has also spoken to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to raise our concerns and ask Government to rethink its decision to reduce access to PIP.

We will continue to raise our concerns with PIP in the media to ensure Government hears disabled people’s experiences of extra costs.

We’re keen to hear from you about why PIP is important to you or about your experiences of getting PIP. If you’d like to share your story, please comment below or email stories@scope.org.uk.

For further information about PIP, visit Scope’s website or call our helpline for free on 0808 800 3333.