Tag Archives: Finance

Enterprise Rent-a-Car pledge to be disabled-friendly service and employer

Donna Miller is HR Director at Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Here she explains why the company has backed the recommendations from the Extra Costs Commission report, and pledged to become a disabled-friendly service and employer. 

Photo of Donna Miller, wearing a suit and smilingVirtually all large companies have mission statements that articulate something about their morality and beliefs.

We’re surrounded by brands who want to assure us that they not only provide an excellent service and great value for money, but do so with integrity, equality and inclusivity firmly in mind.

But behind the good intentions and overuse of buzzwords, it seems that there is a gulf between what companies claim to stand for and what they actually deliver to consumers.

The Extra Cost Commission has unveiled that people with disabilities pay an extra £500 a month for goods and services, which seems to be at odds with what companies assert about their ‘inclusive’ business practices. It seems that people with disabilities have to pay a premium to live the same life as others – hardly good value.

Enterprise company cars lined upI believe that Enterprise is different. Like other companies, we also have nice sounding words and phrases that make up our core values. They are at the core of every decision we make and that is why we are trying to make Enterprise a more disabled friendly service provider and employer.

As a service provider, Enterprise is firmly committed to providing disabled people with the same services at the same prices as other customers. We pride ourselves on our award winning customer service, which extends to everyone regardless of race, gender, religion, or disability. Furthermore, we have been taking practical steps to make our offices and branches more accessible where we can, but that’s not toStaff answering phone at Enterprise say that we get it right 100 per cent of the time.

Despite us making progress towards its goal of being the first choice for disabled consumers, we have quite a way to go. It’s a journey that’s made up of many steps, but we are absolutely committed to getting it right.

Serving the disabled community is the right thing to do from a moral perspective, which should be motivation enough for any business. However, treating disabled customers equally could also have some benefits for those companies that get it right.

The Extra Cost Commission has called on disabled consumers to make their collective annual spend of £212 billion heaAccessible carrd. Companies that listen to their disabled customers could find their ‘integrity’ and ‘inclusivity’ result in other well know business terms, such as profit, satisfaction, and loyalty.

I can assure you that Enterprise is listening.

Are you a business that would like to pledge to take on some of the Extra Costs Commission recommendations? We’d love to know. 

Struggling to make ends meet? Help is at hand

David Samson, a Welfare Benefits Specialist at the charity Turn2us. Here he explains how their benefits calculator, which is now hosted on Scope’s website, can help.

“We started to get behind on our bills and dreaded the post arriving. The stress of finances and day to day living was tearing us apart.”

This is how James – one of our users – described his situation before coming to us for help. James is disabled and unable to work, and he was struggling to get by on a low income. He felt confused about what financial support could be available.

As a charity helping people in financial hardship in the UK, we hear from thousands of people like James every day. We know that people can be hit by financial difficulties at any point in their lives for many different reasons such as illness, disability or caring for someone. Many are forced to live in cold homes or go without food as a result, yet there is often low awareness of what support they can claim, or sometimes a reluctance to ask for help.

One of the ways we help people in need is through our benefits calculator. This free and easy-to-use tool tells you what welfare benefits you could be entitled to, how much you may receive and how to make a claim.Woman on her laptop

It calculates entitlement to means-tested benefits including Income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit, and also highlights potential eligibility for non-means benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment. The tool is fully accessible for disabled people, and can be used on a mobile phone. It also links through to the Money Advice Trust’s ‘My Money Steps’ service which provides free debt advice.

Through using the benefits calculator, James managed to make a successful claim for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), receiving £200 every fortnight. His situation is now more positive and he says: “Things feel more stable now and I’m far less anxious. I feel I can move on with my life and pay the bills.”

In the last financial year, we saw over 940,000 calculations completed on our benefits calculator – a 63% increase on the previous year. As economic difficulties and proposed cuts to welfare continue, the need for help is greater than ever and we expect this rise to continue, which is why Scope and other charities are now hosting it on their website too.

The calculator is continually updated to reflect the latest benefit changes, and has helped more many people to understand their entitlements at an uncertain time.

Woman with dark hair sitting on the sofa in her living room on a laptopHarriet supports her disabled adult son and was worried when his entitlement changed and his benefit was cut. Using the benefits calculator, she identified that he was eligible for additional support at £40 per week and says: “It’s taken a huge worry off of both of us. I’m so relieved my son can keep his financial independence.”

We would urge anyone who is struggling to take a few minutes out of their day to use the calculator to see what support they can claim for themselves or loved ones. Even if you have checked in the past, it is worth doing so again, especially if you have recently experienced a change in your circumstances.

Our research has shown the value of checking entitlements with 85% of households who currently claim benefits telling us that this extra income has helped with their bills, childcare costs and even avoiding debt.

So why not see if you might be eligible for help today? If you need any support with the calculator, you can ring Scope’s helpline on 0808 800 33 33 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and someone can talk you through it.  

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. 

Being in control of your own money

For most of us, it goes without saying that we control our own money. We choose when to spend and save, where to keep it and how to manage it.  For many people with a learning disability however this isn’t the case.

Meike Beckford is a Financial Advocate with Dosh, a not for profit company that specialises in supporting people with a learning disability to manage their money. Here she explains more about their recent investigation into banks and banking.

The importance of support

We all need help and support to manage our money, whether it’s a suitable bank account and regular bank statements, or guidance and information about pensions on retirement.

This support is even more important for people with a learning disability and many other financially excluded people. The right information and support enables many more people to manage their own money well, avoiding financial hardship and using their money to have a more fulfilling life.

This support could involve:

  • accessible, easy-to-understand information on money topics
  • financial education
  • maths and numeracy lessons
  • budgeting tools
  • benefits support
  • suitable and adaptable banking products and services
  • financial advice
  • debt management and support

The important thing is that the support is personalised. Not too much so that the person loses their independence and control, but enough so that they can manage their money well and use it in the way they want.

Dosh believes that everyone should have as much control and independence over their money as possible. We work hard to achieve this in our daily support for people, as well as through extra projects to tackle specific problems.

Problems with banking

We recently became aware of problems people have when accessing banking. Our financial advocates reported problems opening accounts, assessing mental capacity and giving proof of identity.. We decided to investigate the problem further and talked to many partner organisations, like Scope, as well as members of the banking sector to see what we could do to make things better.

Our report showed how damaging poor support can be – a lack of accessible information for example can leave someone unable to understand banking or open an account. This leaves them excluded from managing their finances and ultimately, less in control of their money. Without a bank account, people will struggle to receive benefit payments, make savings on bills through direct debits or put money away for the future.

We wanted to improve the situation and empower people to get the support they need, so we recently released the making money easier guide. This guide follows the report and helps people understand how banks should be supporting them, including what the law says they should be doing.

Supporting people to manage their money better

One of our financial advocates started supporting a gentleman in 2012 who was not receiving all of the benefits he was eligible for and as a result he was struggling to pay his bills or live a fulfilling life.

With personalised support, the gentleman now receives all of the benefits and premiums he is eligible for and also has support to make cost savings such as switching to direct debits to pay his bills.

Thanks to this support, he now lives a much better life. He has taken control of his money, paying all his bills and still having some money left for the things he enjoys – he is even planning a holiday to America in the future, as long as he saves enough money first!

Lack of the right, personalised support with money leaves many people financially disadvantaged and excluded. It increases the risk of financial abuse, mismanagement and debt and stops people making choices about their lives. It is essential that disabled people get the right support and advice to be in control of their money. After all, without money, what could we actually do.

More information about Dosh

The second in our series of reports in to disabled people’s living standards is – 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.