Category Archives: News and politics

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

What does HIV look like? – World AIDS Day 2016

Steve is 30 and has been living with HIV for over a decade. He works for local government and lives in Hampshire with his partner and their cat. For World AIDS Day 2016 he shares his story. 

What do you think of when you hear ‘HIV’? What does the face you see look like?

For me, I’ll be honest, it was those ‘Red Nose Day’ videos of children crying and adults getting thinner and thinner.

I never imagined that one day it would be my face, but just over ten years ago that is exactly what happened.

Coming out is always tricky, I told my family I was gay when I was 15 (Mum cried). Having to do it all over again at 20 to tell them I was HIV+ was not much easier (Mum cried again), but surprisingly, it was not a great deal harder either.

I’d been dating a guy for a while who had HIV and never told me. I was diagnosed on the 1 August 2006, at around half past four in the afternoon and was surprisingly calm. I remember that after being told, I didn’t panic, or cry. I just sat thoughtfully for a moment then asked; “So, what happens next?”

Living with HIV

Stephen presenting at a conference
Steve presenting at a conference

Since then, for the past ten years, I have lived with HIV and continued to try and face it in the same, relatively calm, way. I have always been open about it, and told my friends, lovers and employers the truth.

They are usually surprised because, in all honesty, I’m not a face people would normally associate with HIV. If I may take a moment to describe myself, I’m 30, relatively slim (though with a fondness for cake), ginger and I work in an office.

It amuses me sometimes, that under the Disability Discrimination Act, something that the HIV positive community and those living with disabilities came together to secure, I am disabled.

With HIV I was considered to be disabled from the moment of diagnosis.

The Disability Discrimination Act is now 21 years old, older than I was when I was diagnosed.

There are thousands like me and HIV is not picky – despite the fact a politician elected to the Northern Irish Assembly didn’t know that heterosexual people could be affected by HIV –  it does, and thousands of them too.

What does HIV look like to you?

My opinion has always been that if I don’t talk about HIV or AIDS, if I try and keep my HIV diagnosis the secret, people will think that there’s something about it that I need to hide.
By accident of birth there isn’t.

I was born in a country where health care is free and the medications you need to keep you alive are given to you. The anti-retro-viral drugs that are now available can control the virus.

This means that if you test positive, as long as you test early and start treatment, you can expect to live as long as someone without HIV and not just live, but have a life.

This World Aids Day, we come together again to remember those who fought against stigma and stood up for equality protection under the law but aren’t with us today, and we say thank you.

Wear your red ribbon with pride.

If you’d like more information or support about HIV and World’s AIDS Day, visit the Terrence Higgins website or the National AIDS Trust website.

 

Autumn Statement 2016: A missed opportunity to invest in social care

During his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor, Phillip Hammond spoke about creating an economy that works for everyone and helping ordinary families.

However, we heard little from the Chancellor today that will help support the UK’s 12.9 million disabled people.

Social care

Despite calls from across the sector and from his own MPs the Chancellor didn’t take the opportunity to invest in the social care system.

Social care is the support disabled people rely on to get up, get dressed, get out, and lead independent lives. However, after years of underfunding the system is under extreme pressure and needs urgent investment.

Without long-term and sustainable funding for the social care system more disabled people are at risk of slipping into crisis without access to the support they need. Nearly a third of young disabled people told us they already aren’t getting the support they need to live independent lives. The Chancellor wants everyone to be able to share in economic growth but without adequate social care many disabled people will be unable to work and contribute to their communities in the way they choose.

Employment

The Chancellor said he was privileged to report on an economy where unemployment is at an 11 year low, however the disability employment gap has remained at around 30 per cent for a decade.

Scope analysis also shows that disabled people are almost three times as likely to fall out of work as non-disabled people. If the Government are going to achieve their manifesto commitment of halving the disability employment gap they need to do much more.

Disabled people need a broad package of support to find and stay in work. This includes challenging negative attitudes, a greater focus on flexible working practices and investment in the Access to Work Scheme.

Despite last week’s vote in the House of Commons calling on the Government to pause changes to Employment Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group, the Chancellor did not reverse this decision today. Half a million disabled people rely on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and are already struggling to make ends meet. Reducing their financial support won’t help more disabled people into work and we will continue to campaign against this decision.

Responding to pressure from MPs and charities, the Chancellor did announce changes to the Universal Credit “taper rate”.

This change to the rate at which someone loses their benefit as they increase their hours in work will be a slight improvement for some disabled people.

Extra costs

The Government today announced  further investment in digital infrastructure, including a £1 billion investment in broadband. For disabled people to benefit from the investment the Government must work to close the digital divide. 25 per cent of disabled adults have never used the internet compared to six per cent of non-disabled adults. We need to see targeted investment in digital skills training for disabled people and action to improve web accessibility.

The Chancellor said he wants to make sure the retail energy market is functioning fairly for all consumers. Life costs £550 a month more for disabled people, due to costs such as a higher fuel bills. It is vital that both the Government and energy companies think about how they can support disabled people with their energy costs more effectively and set out details for how they plan to do this.

The extra costs faced by disabled people mean many are just about managing and are the people Theresa May promised to help in her first speech as Prime Minister.

The Government must do more to include the UK’s 12.9 million disabled people in their vision of a country which works for everyone.   

What we would like to see in the Autumn Statement 2016

This Wednesday Phillip Hammond will give his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor, the Government’s first major financial statement since the vote to leave the European Union.

At Scope we’ve been campaigning and raising awareness of the important issues that disabled people face ahead of Wednesday’s Autumn Statement announcement.

Autumn Statement

There has been lots of speculation about what he will include. He has decided not to go ahead with previous Chancellor George Osborne’s formal target to create a budget surplus by 2020 which will give him some flexibility on how much he spends.

Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister set out her commitment to creating a country that ‘works for everyone’ and ‘allowing people to go as far as their talents will take them.’ A recent common theme has been a focus on those ‘just about managing.’ But what does this mean for disabled people and what are Scope been calling for?

Last week we saw passionate speeches from all parties about the need to rethink the implementation of forthcoming reductions in financial support to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), at the beginning of the month the Government launched its consultation to tackle the disability employment gap; and, last month we published research highlighting the crisis in social care for young disabled people.

Taken together, there are many disabled people who are ‘just about managing’.

Our Extra Costs work has highlighted life costs more if you’re disabled. £550 a month more. From the need to purchase appliances and equipment, through to spending more on energy. And yet payments aimed at alleviating these – such as Personal Independence Payments (PIP) – often fall short of enabling disabled people to meet extra costs, leaving many turning to credit cards and payday loans to help with everyday living.

Ahead of the Autumn Statement we think there are three key areas that need addressing.

Social Care

Social care has been at the top of the news agenda in the run up to the Autumn Statement with the Care Quality Commission, Local Government Association, Care and Support Alliance and even the Conservative Chair of the Health Select Committee saying the social care system is in desperate need of investment. Working age disabled adults represent nearly a third of social users.

We have long been calling for sustainable funding in social care. Reductions in funding to local government over the past six years mean the social care system is starting to crumble under extreme financial pressure. We have heard from disabled people who have had to sleep fully-clothed, in their wheelchairs. Scope research in 2015 found that 55 per cent of disabled people think that social care never supports their independence. And just last month we found young disabled adults’ futures are comprised by inadequate care and support.

Social care plays a vital role in allowing many disabled people to live independently, work and be part of their communities. That’s why urgent funding and a long-term funding settlement are needed.

Extra Costs

On average, disabled people spend £550 a month on disability related costs and when we asked disabled people about their top priorities for the Autumn Statement, 70% said protecting disability benefits. We want to see PIP continue to be protected from any form of taxation or means-testing and the value of PIP protected.

The Government is expected to announce significant infrastructure investment and there will be potentially be announcements on digital infrastructure and energy.

We hope energy companies are required to think more about how they can support these consumers with their energy costs more effectively. With 25 per cent of disabled adults having never used the internet compared to 6 per cent of non-disabled adults, any new digital skills funding should include specific funding for disabled people.

Employment

The Government made a welcome commitment in their manifesto to halve the disability employment gap and a plan on how to achieve this in the Improving Lives consultation.

The Autumn Statement provides an opportunity for the Government to take steps to support disabled people to find, and stay in work.

Last week, MPs debated the changes to Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group due to begin in April 2017. MPs from across political parties have been urging the Government to think again about the changes. Half a million disabled people rely on ESA and we know they are already struggling to make ends meet. Over the last year we have been campaigning against this decision as we believe reducing disabled people’s financial support by £30 per week will not help the Government meet their commitment to halve the disability employment gap.

Read more about the Green Paper and how to get involved with the consultation.

“I have a love-hate relationship with my benefits”

Josie, from Bristol, was a nurse until 2008 where she developed a number of impairments which affect her health and mobility.

She has most recently been diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation, a condition which affects immunity and increases the chances of anaphylaxis attacks.

In this blog, she talks about her journey of getting different benefits she needs and the anxious days where her payments stopped completely.

I have a love-hate relationship with my benefits. I am grateful that they exist and that I can live as a disabled person, but I was a worker and I still find it hard that I can’t earn my own money.

When I became ill in 2008, I had just got a new job but hadn’t started yet. After a couple of weeks of no income, I went onto incapacity benefit . This was £ 73 a week. It was so little. Out of that I had to live, pay towards my rent and support my children.

My most heart-breaking moment

I did a depressing budget where I couldn’t afford to see my kids or contribute to them at all. My son asked if I was coming for half term to see him. I had to say no. It was my most heart-breaking moment. At this point, I had been denied three times by Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and was awaiting a doctor’s visit at home.

In 2011,  I was moved over to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). I filled in the 40-page form and got all my paperwork together. I was so worried. I was put in the work-related activity group (WRAG). This involved a trip to the job centre on my birthday. I had two people with me, wore a face mask and hoped I wouldn’t need to get out of my wheelchair and need the toilet.

Josie, a disabled woman, wears a face mask to protect against allergens
Josie wearing her face mask

In 2012 , the job centre invited me again. I was now single and having more reactions so they rang me. I was so so nervous. They put me in the support group and realised I was too unwell to study and other options like office work were a no and I couldn’t even go in a charity shop due to my allergies no matter work in one. So I was released into the utopia of the support group.

It made me anxious and worried

In 2012 , I was reassessed for DLA. My three-year award was up. Reassessment meant a full assessment as if I was applying for the benefit from scratch. I thankfully had an amazing social worker who I will be forever grateful for. Between her and the Occupational Therapist manager, I got all the assessments and paperwork together (again) and was awarded five years. This is due soon and with the move to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), I am not looking forward to it.

This year a work capability form arrived. At first, I thought it was a mistake. I rang, it wasn’t. I can’t write easily or well so I started answering the questions into my laptop. I was worried and scared and avoided dealing with it for a couple of weeks. It made me anxious and worried.

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to achieve it in the time given, so I rang. I was told to get the form back when I could, with no mention of money stopping. Two weeks after the date on the form I had it ready and was going to get it printed by my carer as I get two hours once a week for errands. Then I missed a payment and that day had a letter saying my ESA had been stopped. I rang and it was confirmed.

Josie, a young disabled woman, following a reaction where her face has swollen and become red
Josie following a reaction with swelling and redness

I asked for help, this took five phone calls. The first said no we don’t have your case anymore, ring ‘X’. I rang ‘X’ and they said ring ‘Y’, ‘Y’ said ring ‘Z’ first. Eventually, I broke down in tears, sobbing. A man rang and I answered the questions (including really personal things like how heavy my periods are, how often I need the toilet at night, if I was continent etc) and he filled in my form for me. He reinstated my money immediately. I was told a copy of the form would be sent for me to sign but it never came. But my money continues.

In the four days it took for me to get help, I had a p45 and a letter saying my housing benefit had been stopped. If I had been in hospital or unwell and not able to do the chasing, my life would have completely fallen apart and I would have lost the roof over my head.

Two days after the phone call I had an anaphylaxis. Stress makes it more likely I will have one. Anaphylaxis is not a minor allergic reaction, it’s where you swell up, your throat closes and your blood pressure and pulse drop. This happens quickly (within three to five minutes) and I have to be ready to give myself an EpiPen, otherwise, I would die. I have had to have 78 EpiPens so far and I will shock again.

What needs to happen next

My needs are documented in so many different places – if only these records could be joined up so I don’t need to repeat myself. I’m eight years in now and I feel battle weary.

We need to look at this Work Capability Assessment and find a more holistic, compassionate way forward.

Visit Josie’s blog site to learn more about Mast Cell.

If you have any questions about benefits or employment, contact Scope’s helpline where we provide free, independent and impartial information and support to disabled people and their families.

You can also start or join a discussion on our online community.

What’s behind the disability employment gap?

This morning, the Government has published the latest data on disabled people in and out of work. So what does it tell us?

We know disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people.

We have been calling on the Government to deliver on its commitment to halve the disability employment gap, and to deliver a strategy that tackles the barriers disabled people face in and out of work.

New statistics out today

Data from the labour force survey published this morning shows that around 80 per cent of non-disabled people are in work, compared with 48 per cent of disabled people.

The difference between the two rates is often called the disability employment gap. Today’s results show the gap is 32 percentage points.

You can read our reaction to the labour stats on our website.

Barriers to work

Although the overall employment rate is higher than ever, the disability employment gap has barely shifted over the last ten years.

We know work isn’t right for everyone, and believe everyone’s contribution to society should be valued whether they work or not. Many disabled people tell us they do want to work, but face barriers in society, both moving in to work and in keeping their jobs.

These include things like buildings and transport not being accessible and working hours not being flexible.

Employers

Text reads: 85 per cent of disabled people feel employer attitudes have not improved since 2012

Behind many of these barriers is attitudes employers hold towards disabled people. We know 85 per cent of disabled people feel employer attitudes haven’t improved since 2012.

While employers are legally required to try to make adjustments to support disabled employees, very few employers understand how this requirement  affects them

Falling out of work

Digging a little deeper in to the labour force survey, we’ve also found that disabled people are nearly three times more likely to leave work than non-disabled people.

We’ve also found that people who acquire an impairment as adults are 4 times more likely to fall out of work than non-disabled people This shows how important it is that employers offer support and make adjustments for their employees.

The Government recently published Improving Lives , a consultation on plans to change support for disabled people in and out of work. At Scope, we want to see the Government listen to disabled people’s views and to drive a shift change in employer attitudes and workplace practices in the UK.

Tell us about your experiences

Have you become disabled since you started working?  We’d love to hear about your experiences. Contact: stories@scope.org.uk for more information.

Tell the Government what you think about support in and out of work

Yesterday the Government launched “Improving Lives”, a consultation on proposals around disability, health and work.

We know that disabled people are twice as likely as the general public to be unemployed and just 48 per cent of disabled people are in work, compared to 80 per cent of the wider population.

The difference between the two rates, known as the disability employment gap, has stood at roughly the same level for more than a decade.

We have been calling on the Government to deliver on its commitment to halve the disability employment gap, and to deliver a strategy that tackles the barriers disabled people face in and out of work.

Today, the Government have published some proposals on how to address this. The question is will these proposals translate to meaningful legislative and policy change?

What is “Improving Lives”?

Improving Lives is a Green Paper, which essentially means the Government wants to find out about and discuss an issue with the public before deciding on any action.

Improving Lives is a document about improving the support available to disabled people in and out of work.  The Government are looking at the following areas:

  • The support people need to get into work
  • The support working disabled people might need
  • Assessments for out of work benefits and employment support
  • The role of employers in recruiting and supporting disabled employees
  • Health and care for people both in and out of work

You can read Improving Lives in full on the Government website.  It’s also available in in easy read,  BSL, audio and braille formats.

The consultation is open from 31 October 2016 until Friday 17 February 2017.

A young disabled women using a computer
Mima, who took part in our First Impressions, First Experiences employment scheme

What do we think about the Green Paper?

It’s right that the Government is consulting on support for disabled people in and out of work. We welcome some proposals, including working more closely with employers, challenging attitudes and halving the disability employment gap.

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.

Not every disabled person should be expected to work, and everyone’s contribution to society should be recognised regardless of whether they work or not.

We want to see specialist employment support made available to all disabled people who want to work, for this to be voluntary, and for it to not impact on any financial support.

We’re also concerned about previous decisions to take £30 a week from new claimants placed in the WRAG group. Reducing disabled people’s incomes won’t incentivise people to find a job. It will just make life harder. We’ll be urging government to rethink this cut, as part of our response to the Green Paper published yesterday.

The paper sets out some important questions about reform to the fit for work test, accessing employment support and making workplaces more inclusive.

However, this document is just the first step. At Scope we want to see meaningful consultation with disabled people lead to real policy, legal and attitudinal change. 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.

How can I get involved?

You can respond to the consultation using the Department of Health Consultation Hub website.

If you would prefer, you can respond by email: workandhealth@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Or by post:

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

What is Scope going to do?

Scope will put together a response to the consultation.

As part of this, we’d like to hear from disabled people about their experiences with things like claiming ESA, taking part in employment support programmes and getting support while at work.

We’ll put out more information on how to get involved over the coming weeks, but in the meantime if you’d like to get involved please contact Mel Wilkes, a Policy Adviser on melanie.wilkes@scope.org.uk

Young disabled people are not being supported to do the things they want to in their lives

Today we launch Leading my life my way, a new research report looking at young disabled people’s experiences of using support services to live independently.

We carried out this research because we wanted to find out what young disabled people expect from care and support services, what their experiences are and to what extent they are supported in different areas of their lives.

Our research shows that young disabled people don’t have sufficient control over their care and support plans and consequently in major decisions affecting their lives.

With this in mind, we designed our research to ensure young disabled people’s experiences and opinions were at the centre, through a series of face to face and telephone interviews as well as a wider survey of disabled people aged 17 to 30.

Young disabled people want to do all the things that every young adult does. But the social care system is letting them down and holding them back in many crucial areas of their life.  This is leading to social exclusion and affecting young disabled people’s wellbeing.

Support with personal care

While access to support is a significant barrier faced by young disabled people, our research found a much more widespread issue of being able to access to support in other areas like employment. Of respondents to our survey, 60 per cent said they aren’t getting the support they need to get into work.

Decision making

A quarter of our survey respondents said that they are either only ‘slightly’ or ‘not at all’ involved in making decisions relating to their care and support plan. This highlights a worrying lack of choice and control young disabled people have in making decisions about how they live their lives.

Information and advice

Our research also found that information and advice services could be improved to better serve the needs and expectations of young disabled people. While a fifth of our respondents would like to access information and advice on smartphone apps, only one per cent are currently able to.

The impact of poor quality information and advice was clear in interviews we conducted with respondents, with many instances of young disabled people not knowing how or where to access meaningful support in areas such as finding a job, managing support using direct payments and finding the right place to live.

Daily activities

A lack of support beyond daily living activities can result in a negative impact on young disabled people’s wellbeing.

Of the young disabled people we surveyed, a majority had experienced a significant setback in their lives such as not getting a college place or somewhere they wanted to live.

Text reads: Two thirds of respondents have had significant social care setbacks that have stopped them living indpendtly. 82 percenthad to wait at least six months for a solution

Of these people, 82 per cent had not had this resolved within six months, despite this being an obligation of local authorities under the Care Act. Such experiences are resulting in many young disabled people feeling that their lives are on hold while they struggle for resolution in specific areas of their lives.

Our research provides evidence that many young disabled people are not being supported to do the things they want to in their lives.

This is a denial of opportunity resulting in many young disabled people feeling they are being left behind while non-disabled friends and relatives leave home, progress in work, continue in education, play an active role in their communities and develop relationships. If we don’t get social care support right then the huge amount of potential young disabled people have in these areas could be wasted.

The Government needs to look beyond funding support for the ‘basics’ in social care and ensure young disabled people are supported to live independently in all areas of their lives.

Read more about our work to improve social care on our website.

How are extra costs being reduced for disabled people?

Today (October 19) sees the launch of a new report by the Extra Costs Commission looking at progress made to reduce additional costs for disabled people.

Scope research demonstrates that on average, disabled people spend £550 a month on costs associated with their disability. These costs include things like expensive items of equipment such as powered wheelchairs or screen readers, paying more for energy bills, or facing higher insurance premiums.

Whilst Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment play an important role in helping disabled people meet some of these costs, this report makes it clear that more work is needed to tackle the financial penalty of disability.

Extra Costs Commission

Addressing the problem of extra costs was the focus of a year-long inquiry from July 2014 to June 2015, the Extra Costs Commission, which identified ways in which government, businesses, disability organisations and disabled people can drive down these costs.

Earlier this year, the Commission reconvened to review the progress made in delivering the recommendations it outlined.

Disabled people demanding more as consumers

The Commission identified that households with a disabled person spend £212 billion a year, the so-called ‘purple pound’. As such, disabled people and their families have the potential to be a powerful consumer base and influence how businesses serve them.

One example of this happening involves Rita Kutt, whose four-year-old grandson Caleb has cerebral palsy. Struggling to find popper vests to fit Caleb, she contacted Marks and Spencer to see whether they could stock these in larger sizes.

This led to Marks and Spencer developing a specialist clothing range for disabled children, which includes popper vests and sleepsuits. These are significantly cheaper than similar items sold by specialist retailers, making a huge difference to families with disabled children who face additional costs.

You can read more about Rita’s story on Scope’s community.

Disability organisations empowering disabled people as consumers

A number of disability organisations have been supporting disabled people and businesses with driving down disability-related costs.

We’ve created a ‘money hub’ with information to help disabled people manage their money more effectively, whilst Nimbus Disability has started to offer discounts to users of its Access Card. Whilst these are both fairly new, disabled people have so far responded positively to both of these initiatives.

Businesses serving disabled people better

Alongside the example of Marks and Spencer mentioned above, Uber has been thinking about how it can meet the needs of disabled people better.

They have developed a new service called UberASSIST for passengers requiring additional assistance whilst travelling. Uber has also introduced wheelchair accessible vehicles to its fleet in London. They plan to grow these services to enable more disabled people across the UK to access them.

There are a number of taxi and private hire vehicle providers that serve disabled people well, and it’s good to see Uber creating even more choice in the market for disabled passengers.

Read more about Kelly Perks-Bevington’s experience of using taxis and private hire vehicles.

What next?

Much more needs to happen to reduce extra costs for disabled people, so it is important that the momentum generated by the Commission is not lost.

As such, the Commission calls upon different groups to build upon progress so far to tackle disability-related costs. For instance, disabled people should continue to raise the profile of the ‘purple pound’, whilst company boards of businesses should act as champions for disabled consumers. A cross-governmental approach is also needed to help drive down the range of additional costs faced by disabled people.

Now that the Commission has ended, Scope will be taking forward the work of this inquiry, with a focus on addressing the extra costs of energy and insurance for disabled people.

For further information, please speak to Minesh Patel, Senior Policy Adviser at minesh.patel@scope.org.uk or on 020 7619 7375.

Why a country that works for everyone must include disabled people

Earlier this week at Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham we held an event with senior Conservative Party parliamentarians to discuss how disabled people can be at the heart of the Prime Minister’s social justice agenda.

Scope attends political party conferences in order to influence decision makers from across the political spectrum and discuss Scope’s work and priorities with them.

This was the first Conservative party conference since Theresa May became Prime Minister so it was an opportunity to understand her, and her new cabinet’s priorities. Theresa May set out her commitment to social justice in her first speech as Prime Minister. She said she would make Britain a country that works for everyone and we are determined to make sure that includes disabled people.

Our event heard from the Chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board George Freeman MP, Scope’s Executive Director of Policy and Research Anna Bird, Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee and Ryan Shorthouse, Chief Executive of Bright Blue. We arranged the event in partnership with Bright Blue, a think tank.

We were also joined by MPs with an interest in disability and social justice, including the Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, Maria Miller MP and Heidi Allen MP. Attendees emphasised the importance of Government departments working together in order to improve the lives of disabled people and what more the Government and employers can be doing to support disabled people in work and the progress that is needed to improve attitudes. Recent Scope research found that 85% of disabled people do not think employer attitudes have improved since 2012.

Managing extra costs

Theresa May has said her Government will do more to support those who are “just managing”. Life costs an average of £550 more a month if you are disabled, as a result of the need for specialised equipment or of using more of the basics such as heating and clothing. These extra costs undermine disabled people’s financial security and reduce their ability to save or build any financial resilience, leading many disabled people into debt and poverty and preventing disabled people from living independent lives. Disabled people have an average of £108,000 fewer savings and assets than non-disabled people.

In his speech to conference, Damian Green MP, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions spoke of the need to tackle the barriers that disabled people face when looking for work and announced that the Government will soon be publishing a Green Paper on disability employment. Scope have set out the things we would like to see in the Green Paper including further reform of the Work Capability Assessment, specialist employment support and changes to sick leave.

The Prime Minister’s speech

Of course, one of the biggest moments of the week was Theresa May’s first leader’s speech to conference as Prime Minister. Having given a speech on Brexit earlier in the week, this speech focused mostly on domestic policy. She reiterated her commitment to making Britain a country which works for everyone.

For disabled people this must include halving the disability employment gap, tackling the extra costs they face and ensuring they are able to live independent lives. She highlighted the need for consumers to be protected and represented on company boards. Later this month we’ll be publishing our ‘one year on’ review from the Final Report of the Extra Costs Commission to highlight how more can be done to reduce the extra costs disabled people face.

Over the coming weeks and months we hope that Theresa May will outline in more detail how a country that works for everyone will include disabled people. We will work to make sure the Government prioritise employment, protecting disability benefits and independent living for disabled people.

Read more about our work on the extra costs of disability

“I want to make the extraordinary seem ordinary” – Read about our event at the Labour Party conference on disability and employment.