Tag Archives: DLA

The Emergency Budget 2015 – what we learnt

As commentators continue to try and make sense of Wednesday’s Emergency Budget, what did we learn about the implications of the Chancellor’s statement for disabled people?

Meeting the extra costs of disability – DLA/PIP and tax credits

Despite setting out details of how he planned to find £12bn of savings in the welfare budget, on Wednesday the Chancellor confirmed that disability benefits – including DLA and PIP – will continue to be protected from taxation or means-testing. This directly recognises one of Scope’s priority policy recommendations.

It’s hugely significant that, in this most-political of Budgets, the Government has set out its stall in protecting the value of these payments.

It’s also worth noting that despite the extensive coverage of the Government’s plans to reduce tax credits for certain groups, disabled people have been relatively well-protected in comparison. Many disabled employees earning lower annual salaries and who are managing health conditions alongside part-time work use tax credits to supplement their income.

Work allowances for disabled people are being maintained and the rate at which disability-specific tax credits are set has been protected relative to other groups. However, it’s important to note that disability tax credits will still be subject to steeper tapering alongside other types of credit.

This serves to underline the importance of supporting flexible working for disabled people – both in helping to manage work alongside health conditions and ultimately as a way of maintaining disabled people’s engagement with the labour market.

As such, the move to keep DLA and PIP outside of taxable income is more important and welcome than ever; if extra costs payments had been taxed, this would have resulted in a 40% drop in the annual income for a disabled person on the higher rate of PIP at the minimum wage.

And whilst many of the changes will still have significant implications for disabled workers, there is at least a real recognition that there is something exceptional about support for disabled workers – and that protecting this support is important.

Full employment

Whilst there was no further mention in the Budget statement itself, the publication of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill on Thursday moved the Government further towards its ambition of delivering full employment. Halving the disability employment gap will be a key stepping stone in achieving this.

It’s therefore disappointing that the Government plans to reduce the value of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) for those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) from April 2017 onwards.

ESA has a vital role to play in supporting disabled people make their way into employment. Reducing its value will only make life harder for disabled people who face additional challenges to get back into work.

Disabled people are pushing hard to find jobs and to get on at work, but they continue to face huge barriers. Unlike the other back-to-work programmes that are currently available, the support that disabled people receive needs to be more personalised and tailored to their needs.

On Wednesday, the Chancellor promised further support measures for employment – and we’ll be keeping a close eye on what is being proposed.

Social care

Whilst there was confirmation that the Government would be committing to a further investment in the NHS, it remains extremely concerning that there was no mention of social care in the Chancellor’s statement.

A third of all social care users are disabled people, and access to the care system is critical in supporting many people to live independently. But we know that the system is under increasing demographic and financial pressure, and that the rationing of care is already having serious implications in supporting disabled people to get up, washed, dressed and out the house each day.

It’s therefore essential that the commitment to investing in the healthcare system is matched by a sustainable future funding solution for the care system in the Comprehensive Spending Review later this year.

In addition, there needs to be greater clarity on what the integration of health and social care and the implementation of the Better Care Fund will look like for disabled people.

What we’re looking for in the 2015 Emergency Budget

On Wednesday the Chancellor will deliver his Emergency Budget before the House of Commons, presenting him with the opportunity to set the tone and underline the priorities for the Conservative Government in the new Parliament.

The Chancellor is expected to detail how the pledges set out in the Conservative manifesto will be brought into legislation in the coming months.

Scope will be following the announcements closely – so what can we expect to hear?

Meeting the extra costs of disability

Much of the pre-Budget analysis has focused on the Conservative plans to find £12bn of savings in welfare spending – with speculation that this could mean cutting or taxing disability benefits.

Life costs more if you are disabled. The extra costs faced by disabled people can have a significant impact on the living standards of disabled people, who spend an average of £550 per month on costs related to their disability. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are the payments that are designed to contribute towards these extra costs.

The Government has repeatedly stressed that payments designed to tackle the extra costs of disability will continue to be protected in the new Parliament. The Chancellor stated it at Conservative Conference last year, the Prime Minister promised to ‘safeguard and enhance’ the value of PIP in the election campaign, and the Conservative manifesto confirmed it once again.

The extra costs of disability act as a taxation on disabled people and Scope wants to not only see the value of the payments protected, but ultimately enhanced so that the value is triple-locked in the same way that pensions are – rising by whichever is the higher of inflation, average earnings or a minimum of 2.5%.

Scope has worked extensively to highlight this issue over the last two years and we’ll be keeping a very close eye on what protection is afforded to extra costs payments on Wednesday.

Employment

It’s extremely welcome that the Government has committed to halving the disability employment gap, taking forward one of Scope’s key policy recommendations. Scope very much hopes that the Chancellor will reiterate this in his statement on Wednesday.

However, this commitment will be undermined if BBC News reports last Thursday on a leaked Whitehall memo about Government plans to reduce the value of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) are accurate.

ESA provides the financial support that allows many disabled people to move into the workplace. With other government schemes such as the Work Programme failing to offer the personalised and tailored support that many disabled people need to get into work, reducing their incomes won’t incentivise them to find a job. Instead, it will make life more difficult at a time when disabled people are already struggling to make ends meet.

The proposed changes to ESA must also be considered in the context of the news earlier in the year that the financial support provided through the Access to Work scheme will also be subject to capping.

Scope is strongly urging the Government not to cut access to this financial support but to instead look at what can be done to reform and improve its back to work schemes and make increased use of city and regional growth strategies – such as the newly-announced Northern Powerhouse – to better connect disabled people to employment opportunities.

Digital inclusion

Scope facilitated the Extra Costs Commission, a year-long independent inquiry into the extra costs of disability, with the final report published just last month.

One of the report’s key recommendations is the need to develop improved online access for disabled people. Twenty seven cent of disabled people have never used the internet, compared to eleven percent of non-disabled people. This prevents disabled people accessing appropriate financial products and getting some of the best deals on goods and services.

On Wednesday we’ll be listening out for any further announcements about the Government’s plans to address this critical issue.

Social care, integration and independent living

It’s expected that the Chancellor will use the Budget to highlight the progress of the Better Care Fund (BCF), and perhaps extend it. Scope welcomes the Fund’s potential to improve the integration of health and social care services and promote independent living for disabled people.

However, the scheme must work better for disabled people going forward. Only 14 of 91 the current local BCF Plans include schemes specifically aimed at disabled adults. This represents a missed opportunity, which any BCF extension and longer term vision on integration must address.

Furthermore, despite the announcement of increased funding for the health service, it remains critically important that this is matched with a sustainable future funding settlement for social care.

Visit our blog again after the budget to read our positions and analysis.

Disabled people should come together as ‘bold and loud’ consumers

Robin Hindle Fisher is Chair of the Extra Costs Commission, a year-long independent inquiry into the extra costs that disabled people face. As the report is published today, Robin says, “working on the Extra Costs Commission has been emotionally moving – it has helped me realise that I spent the first 54 years of my 55 year life effectively denying that I am disabled.”

Over the past year I have chaired the Extra Costs Commission, an independent body set up to look for market-based ways to relieve some of the extra costs that disabled people face as consequences of living with their disabilities.

The nature of these costs varies enormously across different conditions and from individual to individual. Examples include the costs of specialist equipment, such as wheelchairs, additional clothing, higher transport costs and higher energy bills, due to increased needs for heating caused by immobility.

Young disabled man shoppingThe disability charity Scope estimates that disabled people have to spend an average of around £550 per month on these extra costs, just to be able to live the same lives as others.  This compares with average welfare payments of £360 per month – leaving a substantial gap that disabled people have to finance. It is this gap that we have sought to reduce.

I have  enjoyed my involvement with the Commission enormously and I believe we have set out a number of recommendations that will have significant impact. One of the key recommendations is that disabled people, of whom I am one, should be prepared to be “bold and loud” about their disabilities. The Commission believes that this will help to make the spending power of the disabled sector, the so-called ‘purple pound’, an higher profile consumer phenomenon – and eventually drive down costs.

Disabled woman paying for shoppingI have found this “bold and loud” aspect of the Commission’s work emotionally moving. I have realised that I spent the first 54 years of my life (I’m now 55), effectively denying that I am disabled. What was it that drove me, a moderately ‘successful’ person (in terms of academic attainment, career advancement and material reward), to feel that I could not be seen as being ‘disabled’?

For a long time I assumed the answer was specific to me – maybe the result of my up bringing, that ingrained a strong ‘you are as good as anyone’ ethic in me. It affected me in a whole array of ways – how I dressed, how I strove for badges of conventional success, how I chose to interact with other disabled people – I didn’t.  It certainly affected how I explained my disability to my children wMum and disabled daughter looking at a tablet togatherhen they were young. Fearing that they would be teased, or worse, about their father’s physical deformities (they never were), I described myself as ‘special’, not in an elitist sense, but meaning just ‘different’.

Working on the Commission has helped me understand that I am not unusual. Many disabled people avoid the term, I guess fearing that they will be labelled by society as inferior to the able bodied majority. This denial is completely understandable – when I was growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s disability was stigmatised and society assumed that you were helpless, and quite possibly hopeless, if you were born or found yourself with physical, let alone mental, health issues.

Although the stigmatisation is massively less pervasive now than it was 30 or 40 years ago, it is still having hidden effects. One of them is the reluctance that many of us still feel to accept the badge of disability. But I now think this reticence is serving us badly. It certainly reduces our collective consumer influence – and thus contributes to the extra costs we face. Hence our call to disabled people to be “bold and loud”.Disabled woman in a wheelchair shopping

Perhaps even more importantly, I believe our reluctance to be identified as ‘disabled’ is perpetuating the very stigma that we seek to avoid. I think we should take our lead from the gay and lesbian community and be prepared to ‘come out’ that we are disabled. I feel that until we do that, disability will remain ‘inferior’ in some people’s minds, ‘special’ in others’, rather than what it should be – just another version of ‘normal’.

Read the Extra Costs Commission report, published today. 

The Budget 2015 – The announcements we’ll be looking for

On Wednesday the Chancellor George Osborne will deliver the last budget of this Parliament with some commentators arguing that with this statement “the general election will kick off in earnest”.

There has been a lot of speculation about the Chancellor’s statement and here at Scope we will be following the Budget closely to see what it will mean for disabled people and their families. We’ll be looking out for announcements in the following three areas:

Halving the disability employment gap

A key theme of the Chancellor’s speech is expected to be jobs and growth.

We know that disabled people want the same opportunities to work as everyone else and nine in ten disabled people are in work or have worked in the past. But for the Chancellor to achieve his aim of “full employment”, more must be done to address the disability employment gap.

Access to Work supports disabled people to stay in work and progress in their careers. The Chancellor could strengthen Access to Work, to make sure more disabled people can benefit.

He could build upon the Minister for Disabled People’s welcome announcement last week about the introduction of personal budgets for Access to Work. This will give disabled people more control over how they access the support which enables them to work.

However, we are concerned about new proposals to cap the amount of funding each individual can receive through Access to Work. A cap could mean that disabled employees, such as those who require British Sign Language interpreters, could lose their support and would be unable to continue working.

We’ll also be looking to the Chancellor to use his focus on regional growth to create programmes specifically aimed at improving employment rates amongst disabled people.

Protection of DLA and PIP

Life can cost more if you are disabled. The extra costs faced by disabled people can have a significant impact on disabled people’s living standards, who spend on average £550 per month on costs related to their disability. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are payments that are designed to contribute towards these extra costs.

Welfare spending is also likely to be a key theme of the Budget. Last year the Chancellor announced in his speech at the Conservative Party Conference that a future Conservative Government would protect DLA and PIP in any freeze on benefits. We’ll be looking to the Chancellor to commit to this in the Budget.

This month’s Extra Cost’s Commission interim report highlighted the need to tackle the underlying drivers of the extra costs disabled people face. One area that the Commission identified was the need to improve online access for disabled people. Thirty per cent of disabled people have never used the internet, compared to seven percent of non-disabled people. This prevents disabled people accessing appropriate financial products and getting some of the best deals on goods and services.

Anything the Chancellor announces to improve digital inclusion should consider how to support more disabled people to get online.

Investment in social care

Social care supports disabled people to live independently, work and play an active part in the community.

With the Budget taking place just two weeks before the landmark Care Act comes into force, The Chancellor must take steps to introduce a sustainable funding settlement for social care.

Much focus has been placed on whether the Chancellor will commit to investing £2bn per year in the NHS, as set out in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View. However, investment in the NHS cannot be looked at in isolation from social care funding. Last week the Care and Support Alliance published the findings of a survey of over 800 English GPs which found that almost nine in ten believe reductions in social care services have contributed to pressures in their surgeries.

The Chancellor should use his final Budget before the election to prioritise investment in the social care system so that the ambition set out in the Government’s Care Act in this Parliament can be realised in the next.

The financial strain of disability #100days100stories

39 year old Emily lives in Eastbourne with her husband and four children – Lucy, 16, William, 12, Oscar, six, and Reuben, who’s four. Both the younger boys have autism, and Emily has had Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME) for many years, which means her energy and movement have been limited. She is recovering now, and has recently returned to work, but she still uses a wheelchair for long distances. In this guest post as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign, Emily describes how her family is trying to meet the extra costs of disability.

Food

The boys have a lot of difficulties with food and there’s lots of wastage. If they get some bread or cake or a banana, they will eat part of a slice, throw it on the floor, get another, and throw that on the floor. They’re also very faddy – one day they want eggs on toast and the next day it’s oranges. Sometimes they won’t eat at all; another day one will eat dinner, but the other won’t.

Clothes

The boys often need particular materials and certain fabrics are a no-no, so we’ve wasted money on things they won’t wear at all. Oscar insists on wearing one sock at night; the other sock gets separated so I end up with a sock nightmare! Reuben loves playing outside in the garden, but will get very muddy, jumping in puddles and sitting down on wet surfaces that other children would probably stay away from at his age.

Washing

We get through a lot of washing powder with extra continence problems. Ozzy is only just out of nappies at six; Reuben still wears them 24 hours a day and he’s four. He has nappy leakages at night, and spills a lot of milk on the bed, so that’s extra washing. The other day Oscar put his hand down his pants and smeared poo in his bed. When Ozzy was in nappies, we would dress him in five layers of clothes to stop him smearing everywhere, but now that he’s potty trained he needs to go to the toilet himself at nights, so he goes to bed in pants and pajamas. It’s a difficult decision between teaching him independence and keeping things clean.

Learning

I’ve tried to get the boys interested in reading since they were babies, but it’s been a struggle. Ozzy’s just started showing an interest, but Reuben’s just not interested because of his speech and language delay – so books end up getting ripped up, partly in frustration and partly from excitement I think.

I have to think outside the box and use online games and reading apps. Both the boys are fixated with screens, so we try to use them productively. If we could afford an iPad with the right apps it could really help Reuben learn to communicate.

Toys and play

Emily's husband and four children on a park bench eating icecream
Emily’s husband and four children

They’re very destructive in their play and exploration, and get through toys like no one’s business. Reuben goes to his bedroom, pulls all the drawers out and empties all his toys on the floor. I think perhaps all toddlers are destructive, but the boys have been in this stage for five years. They also play with everyday items around the house – things from my desk, the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom. This isn’t only an extra expense on replacing the items, but also wear and tear on the house.

Supplements

It’s only because I’ve worked hard at trying out different combinations of supplements and pacing my rests throughout the day that I’ve managed to get to a place where I can return to work. I take D-Ribose energy supplement, which boosts energy and recovery. That’s the most expensive, at £18 per 250 ml. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. Then there’s Aloe Vera juice, vitamin D, evening primrose oil, among others. I easily spend £50 a month on the lot, possibly more. They all really make a difference.

Toiletries

I’m really sensitive to chemicals and had to change shampoos and bath stuff to dermatological and natural ingredient products, but it’s very expensive to trial and error those. The boys also get psoriasis and eczema so they need to have special toiletries. The consultant recommended having lavender oil in their bath to try and calm them at night, so I managed to source a big 100ml bottle for the same price as a 10ml. But all this takes time and research, and you’re not always successful finding a good deal.

Travel

To go shopping I hire a mobility scooter, which costs about £100 over the year. We’ve had to replace car seats because Reuben’s an ‘escapeologist’ who manages to get out of most five point harness car seats, and we’ve had to replace buggies over the years. Car parking can be expensive, especially in hospitals. When you’re transporting two autistic boys, public transport is not a valid choice because of the safety issues with the boys running off in a random direction.

Looking to the future

We use the boys’ DLA (disabled living allowance) to help with their care, so we have an extra pair of hands on the school run to keep them safe, and to help us keep on top of the washing, extra tidying and cleaning.

I’m happy to be back working, but the financial state we’d gotten into by me not being able to work was getting really bad, and we were getting heavily into debt. We sold our flat to pay off our debts, and moved into rented accommodation.

If I hadn’t recovered enough in order to be able to get a job, we’d be really struggling still. With both of us working, we can now cover all the high costs of living, and the extra expenses that come with our beautiful boys. We can’t take them to therapeutic groups or swimming in the evenings, as I don’t get home in time; but just like everyone else, we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

Life costs more if you’re disabled. Read more #ExtraCosts stories

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.

 

A new approach to tackling the extra costs faced by disabled people

Life costs more if you are disabled. From buying specialist equipment to facing higher everyday expenses, disabled people face extra costs in almost all areas of life.

Last week the Public Accounts Committee reported that the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), introduced from April 2013 to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), is facing major problems. As a result many disabled people are experiencing unacceptable delays in receiving these crucial extra costs payments.

From having to buy assistive technology, spending more on heating, buying more expensive transport, to paying more for insurance – as a disabled person you will face around £550 in disability related expenditure. PIP is intended to help cover the extra costs that disabled people face.

Delays in access to the fundamental support provided by government to offset these costs puts disabled people more at risk of financial difficulty. This is especially worrying since disabled people are three times more likely than non disabled people to turn to doorstep loans.

Later today I am speaking at an IPPR North event – ‘Cost of Living Crisis: are disabled people being forgotten?’ – where I will be highlighting the importance of both protecting extra costs payments and tackling the root causes of the extra costs that disabled people face.

Protecting extra costs payments

In the Priced Out report Scope calls for crucial extra costs payments to be protected by a triple lock guarantee, and from the overall cap on social security spending. We set out principles for an improved PIP assessment that ensures that disabled people who need support get it when it is needed.

When we talk about living standards in the UK we often think of growth, wages and prices. The most recent Labour Market Statistics showed that the cost-of-living crisis may be easing – average prices did not exceed average wages for the first time since 2010. But this will not be the case for disabled people who face lower incomes, higher costs and diminishing or severely delayed support. The issue of extra costs is one that predates the recession for disabled people, and without the right support to offset these costs, a recovering economy will not improve disabled people’s living standards.

But as well as making sure the support is there, where extra costs can be driven down, they should be. Some things can be very expensive for disabled people, and we want to find out why.

Commission on Extra Costs

Huge progress has been made in opening up opportunities for disabled people over recent years. Advances in technology have brought big improvements in independence and participation but all too often these come at a high, sometimes prohibitively high, cost. The inaccessibility of infrastructure and gaps in public service provision can also cause considerable extra costs for disabled people.

Political parties and the commercial sector have begun to recognise disabled people’s collective spending power but Scope, BT and the RCA’s Helen Hamlyn Centre for Inclusive Design found that there are still gaps in the market between mainstream and disability-specific technology which – if tapped – have real potential to drive down disabled people’s costs and raise living standards.

This year, Scope, supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, will be launching a major Commission into the Extra Costs faced by disabled people. Over the course of a year, an independent panel of experts will consider the ways in which the extra costs faced by disabled people and families with disabled children in England and Wales can be driven down by both business and government.

We will be asking disabled people for their experiences of extra costs, and looking for organisations and individuals to submit formal evidence to the Commission. We also want to work with experts and practitioners across all sectors to find innovative solutions that drive down extra costs.

If you would like to get involved in the Commission or want to know more about it, please get in touch with us by emailing commission@scope.org.uk

Priced out: what disabled people told us they pay more for

We launched a report today which shows that disabled people and their families pay more at every turn.

It isn’t only the extra costs of specialist equipment, or having to buy more of things, like heating or bedding. Disabled people are also being charged a premium for everyday items.

We have calculated that disabled people face a financial penalty of on average of £550 per month.

We asked you what you have to spend more on. Thanks for sharing your experiences on Facebook and Twitter – here’s what you told us.

Buying specialist products and adapted equipment 

Disabled people have to buy things that most families don’t have to budget for. You told us just how expensive specialist equipment and products can be.

“I am constantly amazed at the prices I have to pay for items and equipment. I am horrified by what some mobility equipment companies get away with charging.” – Sue

“My orthotic braces don’t fit in normal shoes and slippers so i have to buy them from specialist suppliers. These are MUCH more expensive than normal shoes.” – Fiona

“Why do wheelchair and equipment manufacturers all think that all wheelchair users are lottery winners?” – John

“The special aids are horrendously expensive.” – Jules

Things disabled people need to buy more of

Disabled people and their families often need to buy more of things. This could be a one-off expense, like buying a larger house to store medical equipment, or regular expenses, like taxis to work or higher energy use. Here’s what you buy more of.

“I fall a lot so I need to wash my clothes more often than non disabled people (on average), and my clothes get damaged quicker so need replacing more often. Due to my hyperhydrosis I go through more antiperspirants than ‘normal’ people and have to buy the more expensive super strength ones.” – Fiona

“I have dyspraxia and dyslexia. All my written work is done on my computer and printed out. So I buy more printer cartridges than others.” – Shirley Jones

“I’m physically disabled and have epilepsy so can’t drive – taxis soon mount up!” – Ruth

Paying more for everyday things

You also told us that you are often charged more for everyday things.

” I have to buy concert tickets over the phone instead if internet. Calls are charged at peak.” – Shani

“Companies read “disabled” or “special needs” but hear “keerching!!”. Scandal. Selling an I-Pad? Call it a “Communication Aid” and add a zero on to the end of the price.” – Wag

“Holiday insurance, could not go abroad last time we planned as no one would insure me and include medical problems.” – Helen

“Taxis drivers spend forever with clamps etc and are “legally allowed” to have the meter running either while putting you in or getting you out.” – Jenna

“It annoys me so much that you have to pay more for taxis as a disabled wheelchair user! Also it’s normally only the more expensive companies that have accessible vehicles!” – Adele

“Hospital parking costs a lot more as it takes me longer to get to the appointment and get out again, and I usually have to wait up to an hour for a disabled space at my local hospital. This all adds to the costs you have to pay.” – Fiona

What needs to happen

The extra costs that disabled people and their families face have a huge impact on living standards. Having less cash to spare makes it harder to afford the basics in life, avoid debt, and build up savings.

We think two things need to happen.

The Government needs to protect payments that help disabled people meet these extra costs.

We also need to find a way to bring down the premium that disabled people are paying for everything things.

We are calling for all Government departments to play a part in driving down disabled people’s extra costs. And Scope is launching a commission in the summer, to find ways to reduce the amount that disabled people pay in key areas, including housing, transport, equipment and technology.

Read the report and let us know on Facebook and Twitter what extra costs you face . Read the story on BBC News.

Priced out: ending the financial penalty of disability by 2020

Earlier this month Scope released the first in a series of reports that look in depth at the challenges within disabled people’s living standards.

When we talk about improving living standards in the UK, we often think of economic growth, prices and wages. But what is rarely recognised is a problem that affects disabled people’s living standards that pre-dates the recession – one owing to the additional costs of disability.

Today, we launch the second in our series of reports – Priced Out: ending the financial penalty of disability by 2020. The report brings together new research and analysis to investigate the extra costs disabled people face and how to tackle them.

Disabled people pay a financial penalty on life, which can be because of:

  • Having to buy more of everyday things (like heating, or taxis to work)
  • Paying for a specialist items (like a wheelchair or a hoist)
  • Paying more than non-disabled people for same products and services (like insurance)

On average disabled people spend £550 per month on disability related things.

Over 20 years ago – recognising this financial penalty- a Conservative government introduced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to help cover the extra costs of disability.

Yet disabled people still feel their effects and:

Not only is financial instability bad for disabled people, but as people in the UK are living longer failing to address the problems posed by a growing, and significantly under-pensioned segment of the population, will have ramifications for the living standards of the UK as a whole. Tackling extra costs is therefore a policy imperative.

With a general election rapidly approaching, and with signs of economic growth in the UK beginning to show, there is an opportunity for political parties to set out what they will do to end this financial penalty by 2020, and make sure that disabled people are part of fair, inclusive growth.

Protecting crucial extra costs payments

DLA has been crucial for disabled people to lead independent lives, to take up opportunities, increase their own income and contribute to their communities.

But recent and planned welfare reform threatens these important payments.

DLA is being replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIP). But PIP assessments do not ensure those who need support get it. 600, 000 disabled people are set lose DLA through its reform.

And in the Budget 2014, the Chancellor announced that starting in 2015-16 an overall limit of £119.5 billion will be placed on parts of social security spending.DLA and PIP are planned to be within the cap and are at risk of being cut because of it.

We recommend:

  • Last week an independent review of PIP assessments was announced. We call on the Government commit to replacing the current assessment of extra costs with a new one that more accurately identify disabled people’s extra costs.
  • The Government protect extra costs payments such as DLA and PIP by taking them out of the cap or ring-fencing them within it.

Making extra costs payments go further

 Extra costs payments do not go far enough. DLA and PIP do not cover all extra costs. Therefore disabled people are still more likely to be in debt and unable to build savings and contribute to pensions.

We recommend:

The Government make extra costs payments go further by committing to an extension of the ‘triple lock’ guarantee on pensions to extra costs payments in the next parliament – meaning they will rise by the highest of prices, earnings or 2.5% each year.

Driving down extra costs

Where extra costs can be driven down, they ought to be. Currently, only the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has responsibility for tackling the problem of extra costs. But in reality, all departments have a role to play. For example, research shows that inaccessible housing can dirve up contribute extra costs.

We recommend:

The Government and all political parties commit ensuring truly cross-departmental policy-making to identify and drive down the root causes of extra costs by placing the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) in the Cabinet Office.

Often things disabled people need to buy are very expensive – such as £3500 for a Lightwriter which turns text into speech. Affordable products to adapt mainstream tablets (which cost between £200 and £600) are not commonly available. And sometimes disabled people have to pay more for things just because they are disabled – for example facing large supplements for travel insurance based on their condition.

We recommend:

The Government, business and regulators re-balance markets so that they work better for disabled people. For example the Government should create a new funding stream as part of the Growth and Innovation Fund (GIF) from the Skills Funding Agency which invites employers in the relevant sectors to apply for investment in skills of their workforce, specifically to innovate for disabled people.

This approach will go some way in ending the financial penalty disabled people pay by 2020. This will raise disabled people’s living standards, and ensuring there is fair, inclusive growth which does not leave disabled people behind.

Later this month Scope will publish the third in this series. It will look at what the Government can do to create better job opportunities for disabled people.

In the Summer Scope will be launching a Commission on Extra Costs to investigate why there is a premium attached to the goods, services and infrastructure (housing and travel) disabled people use and what can be done to bring them down.

DLA and the road to independence

The game changers

Amy

Amy Jones is a disability rights activist with cerebral palsy. She’s passionate about social justice and cake. She is also the author of the blog In Bloom.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – We’ve probably all heard of it, but not everyone knows how much this benefit means to disabled people. As a young lady with cerebral palsy, I want to share with you how precious DLA has been for my independence and ambitions. In case you don’t know, DLA is paid to disabled people to help towards the extra costs of their disability and to enable them to cope with the daily challenges their disability presents. In my case, DLA enabled me to move away from home and go to university. DLA gave me access to social care, which meant that I could get help with dressing, preparing food, food shopping, and household chores. Without this help, I would not have been able to go to university and fulfill my lifelong ambition of getting a degree, simply because I would be unable to perform the basic aspects of daily living.

I knew from a young age that a degree could prove invaluable for my future employment prospects, being physically disabled, I realised my options for jobs were limited. So DLA will probably inadvertently help me get a job because it has enabled me to go to university and study for a degree which will make me employable.

My story is not unique, DLA helps disabled people participate in society. It gives them help with daily living. It enables employment and education. And it allows disabled people to meet their friends, go places and better manage their disabilities. Put simply, DLA is the fabric of a compassionate and civilised society because if you remove disabled people’s DLA, you are actively removing their support, which will stamp out their dignity, independence and ambitions.

If you would like to submit your story or find out more about the Game Changers community, visit the Game Changers website.