Tag Archives: Autumn Statement

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.

What does the Autumn Financial Statement mean for disabled people?

Wednesday was International Day of People with Disabilities. By coincidence, it was also the day of the Autumn Financial Statement. Although the Chancellor’s speech and the accompanying documents only addressed disability explicitly a handful of times, nonetheless his policies will affect disabled people.

Prior to yesterday’s announcements Scope called on the Chancellor to:

  • Link and match investment in the NHS to investment in social care.
  • Invest in Access to Work and specialist employment support to enable more disabled people to enter and sustain employment.
  • Protect the value of extra cost payments.

So how did the statement match up to what we asked for?

1. Linking health and social care

The biggest announcement, trailed heavily before the speech, was a further £2bn investment in the NHS.

But it should be clear that without greater investment in this country’s social care this will remain a false economy. Social care, for both older and disabled people is in crisis. Unfortunately, as Scope’s Chief Executive and Chair of the Care and Support Alliance, Richard Hawkes, stated – ‘care was conspicuous by its absence in the Autumn Statement.’

A little less concrete than a budget promise, but still welcome, was the commitment to continue to integrate health and social care locally. Tucked away in the statement was the promise to give councils and CCGs more information about funding they will receive in future years so they can plan together. A slightly technical point yes, and not enough to counterbalance years of underfunding, but this has the potential to drive a stronger focus on supporting working-age disabled people to live as independently as possible.

Other good news was the announcements made concerning carers. These are:

  • The Carer’s Allowance earnings limit will increase in April 2015 from £102 to £110 per week
  • The Government will extend the £2,000 annual National Insurance contributions Employment Allowance to those households that employ care and support workers.
  • Care workers will be exempted from the impacts of removing the £8,500 threshold below which employees do not pay Income Tax on benefits in kind.

2. Employment support

Unfortunately no announcement regarding Access to Work was made yesterday, nor any significant changes to the way in which employment services for disabled people operate.

However, the decision that an additional £3m will be made available to expand existing mental health and employment pilots is a really positive step. It is now important that the learning from these pilots are effectively captured and applied to employment services as a whole.

3. Extra costs

Osborne announced that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independent Payments (PIP) would be protected in any future freeze of working age benefits. Whilst we recognise that the freeze will adversely affect many disabled people in the ESA WRAG group and on JSA, protecting DLA/PIP is an important part of ensuring disabled people can meet the extra costs they face.

Scope warmly welcomed this move at the time, and we were pleased when in this was confirmed in a separate announcement made by the Minister for Pensions Steve Web.

 

Autumn Statement – what’s in it for social care?

Guest post from Megan Cleaver, Parliamentary Officer at Scope.

Today’s Autumn Statement was the last big political announcement of 2013. But what was left out of the Chancellor’s speech this morning was just as revealing as what was included.

The A&E crisis has dominated the headlines over the past few months, with investment in social care seen as one way to ease the pressure on hospitals. But despite rumours overstretched social care budgets would be given a boost today, on this the Chancellor was silent.

Such a commitment to extra funding would have been especially welcome given the second reading of the Care Bill in the House of Commons was also announced today. The Care Bill contains the biggest ever reforms to the social care system, and its debate on 16 December will be the first opportunity for MPs to debate changes to social care which will affect over half a million disabled people.

And providing good quality social care can bring huge economic benefits. George Osborne spoke at length in the Autumn Statement about the need to get the benefits bill down and get people working. For disabled people, social care is the cornerstone of their independence- the support they need to both seek and stay in employment.

Indeed, recent research by Deloitte has shown that investing in social care for disabled people with ‘moderate’ care needs – who the Government have stated they intend to shut out of the social care system by tightening up eligibility for care – creates considerable savings for the public purse. Deloitte found that for every £1 that is spent on moderate social care needs, £1.30 is saved through increased tax revenue to the Treasury and a reduction in welfare spending as a result of disabled people and informal carers entering the workplace, not to mention the significant savings to local authorities and the NHS from ensuring disabled people’s needs do not escalate to crisis point and therefore require more expensive medical treatment at a later date.

And when George Osborne states that the job of getting rid of the deficit ‘is not yet done’, these are financial savings that cannot be ignored.

Cap on over £100 billion of welfare further threatens disabled people’s living standards

Today, The Chancellor announced details of the planned cap on Annually Managed Expenditure (AME). Currently, the social security budget has the flexibility to respond to the needs of the economy and the people within it. In the Autumn Statement today we learnt this may no longer be the case.

At the beginning of each Parliament the Chancellor- with support from the House of Commons – will place limits on social security spend. Set in 2014 for the four years following, the cap will cover more than £100 billion welfare spending.

The basic state pension, Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and JSA-pass ported benefits will be excluded from the cap. But all other benefits – including Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Tax Credits and the majority of Housing Benefit – will still be in the cap.

What does the cap mean?

Raising the stakes

A breach of the cap will trigger a debate and vote in the House of Commons. This will further raise the stakes for policy-makers who want to ensure they can provide the right support for disabled people.

Welfare trade-offs

Housing Benefit and tax credits are counter-cyclical –they may rise sharply if the economy falters. If the economy takes a downward turn, ministers bound by the cap will be forced to pitch them against disability benefits in their decisions to bring down social security spending.

Today Osborne argued that including state pensions within the cap would mean “cutting pensions for those who’ve worked hard all their lives because the costs on, say, housing benefit for young people had got out of control.” Meanwhile, disability benefits which help many disabled people work and live independently – appear to be fair game.

Short-termism

The cap installs yearly limits to social security spending. Instead of tackling the drivers of it, ministers will be compelled to make quick, top-down cuts wherever they can.

Scope have long-argued that continued investment in social care, better employment support and proper support to cover the extra costs of being disabled would all be more effective in meeting disabled people’s needs and driving down costs than any cap on AME.

This autumn, the Chancellor has celebrated growth and responsible recovery. But it is a recovery that will not benefit disabled people. Instead disabled people will face yet another squeeze on living standards, and further exclusion from local communities and the wider economy.