Tag Archives: Government

How can the next government ensure disabled people have the support to live independently?

We want the next government to deliver Everyday Equality with disabled people. It must put the interests of disabled people at the heart of its agenda, and deliver meaningful change over the next five years to tackle the barriers that prevent disabled people from participating fully in society.

A key part of Everyday Equality is having the right support to live the life of your own choosing. However, there are still a range of barriers that make this difficult for disabled people, from inadequate social care provision, to inaccessible physical environments and digital exclusion.

That’s why we are calling on the next government to ensure disabled people have the support to live independently.

Increasing investment in social care

Social care is an essential public service that supports disabled people to get up, get dressed and get out of the house.

Around a third of social care users in England are working-age disabled people. However, we know that more than half are not receiving the right care to support them to live independently.

Text says, Over half of disabled people using social care can't get the support they need to live independently

This means not enough disabled care users are getting the support they need to live independently, work, volunteer, and live full, meaningful lives.

In order to ensure disabled people are getting the right level of support, it is crucial that the issue of inadequate funding in social care is addressed. Whilst we have seen some recent investment, the funding gap in our social care system is estimated to rise to £2.8 billion by 2020.

That’s why we are calling on the next government to increase investment in social care so that disabled people of all ages are able to access the support they need to live independent lives.

Improving access to everyday services  

Living independently means being to have choice and control over your life, whether as a consumer, whilst travelling, or whilst socialising.

However, we know that disabled people often face barriers in accessing day-to-day markets, services and amenities.

For instance, less than a quarter of disabled people think the accessibility of pubs, restaurants, clubs and shops has improved since 2012. In the digital world, 25 per cent of disabled adults have never used the internet compared to 6 per cent of non-disabled adults, often due to a lack of digital skills or inaccessible websites. This means disabled people are more likely to miss out on the best deals and offers which are commonly found online.

We want the next government to ensure equal access to goods and services for disabled people by increasing compliance with the Equality Act, and tackling the digital divide between disabled people and non-disabled people.

Tell us what living independently means to you  

You can read more about our priorities for the next government and how you can register to vote in this election.

What does living independently mean to you? What would getting the right support from social care enable you to do? Email the stories team and tell us your experience – stories@scope.org.uk 

You can also join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #EverydayEquality.

Paying extra to live my life

Jean has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome which means her joints dislocate easily and she is in a lot of pain. In this blog she talks about her experience of extra costs and shares her hopes for the next government to bring about everyday equality for disabled people by 2022.

I came home from work one day, fell over, was taken to hospital because I couldn’t get back up. I came out of hospital a week later in a wheelchair. I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome several years ago. Since then I’ve been trying to get on and live my life, but I face a huge range of extra costs which makes things harder than they should be.

The things I need to live my life

Many of them aren’t obvious. Things like adapted cutlery and kitchen equipment are vastly more expensive than an ordinary set. I’m supposed to have specialist knives to help me with preparing veg and things like that – with the handle at a 45 degree angle – but they are about £15 a blade. They are not covered by the NHS, you have to pay for them yourself, and we can’t afford them.

I’m a careful budgeter, tracking what I spend down to the penny, but I can’t scrimp on the things I needs or it can take a big toll. I have to eat a particular diet because my condition affects my gastric system, and if I am not very careful with what I eat then my gastric system will start going downhill. Our shopping bill comes to about £120 a week.

We had a situation a couple of years ago where we were living on essentially £50 a week, so we were buying the really, really cheap basic stuff. We managed to make sure we had enough to fill us but I was really ill. I was bed-bound for a year because I was having so many problems with my stomach and lower back and with pain in my hips and my pelvis. I couldn’t move.

I have all kinds of other costs. Some are really big. For example, I get a basic wheelchair provided for me, but I really need an ergonomic one to reduce stress on my joints, which is very expensive. You expect that any equipment you need you’d get from the NHS (you get for free), but you only get the very basics. It’s around £1,200 to £1,500 to get a wheelchair that suits my needs, and we couldn’t afford that.

Jean sitting at a desk with an open laptop in front of her
Jean struggles to pay for essential equipment that she needs to live

Everyday equality by 2022

People think that because you are disabled you shouldn’t be allowed to have a normal life – to do the same things that they do. I’m just trying to have a normal life.

My future vision for disability equality would be that all buildings and public spaces are built with disability in mind from the outset. Anyone can use accessible facilities but disabled people cannot use all facilities.

I would also like attitudes to change so that disability was seen in the same way as race, sex or gender – just an everyday difference rather than an inconvenience that has to be managed by companies, corporations and institutions.

I want disabled people to be involved (not represented but representing themselves) at all levels of responsibility. The old adage of “nothing about us without us” still isn’t utilised enough in my opinion.

Tell us what being financially secure means to you

Scope is calling on the next government to improve disabled people’s financial security.

You can read more about our priorities for the next government and how you can register to vote in this election.

What does being financially secure mean to you? Email the stories team at Scope and tell us your experience – stories@scope.org.uk

You can also join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #EverydayEquality

How can the next government improve disabled people’s financial security?

We want the next government to deliver Everyday Equality with disabled people. It must put the interests of disabled people at the heart of its agenda and deliver meaningful change over the next five years to tackle the barriers that prevent disabled people from participating fully in society.

A major barrier to achieving everyday equality is the additional costs disabled people face as a result of their impairment or condition.

That’s why we are calling on the next government to improve disabled people’s financial security.

Life is more expensive if you are disabled

On average, disabled people spend £550 a month on costs related to their impairment or condition. These costs may include expensive items of specialised equipment, higher heating bills, or more costly insurance premiums.

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

These costs have a detrimental impact on disabled people’s financial stability. For instance, disabled people have an average of £108,000 fewer savings and assets than non-disabled people, whilst households with a disabled person are more likely to have unsecured debt compared to households without a disabled member.

The financial barrier of extra costs makes it harder for individuals to get into work, access education and training opportunities, and participate fully in their community.

It is vital that the next government tackles the financial penalty experienced by disabled people.

Ensuring disabled people have adequate support to meet extra costs

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – the successor to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – plays a key role in helping disabled people meet some of the additional costs of disability.

However, we know that applying for PIP is often a stressful process for disabled people. Our helpline saw a 542 per cent rise in PIP-related calls in the period April 2016 to March 2017 compared to the year previously, many of which were concerning difficulties disabled people and their families were experiencing with the assessment.

The assessment for PIP looks at how a person’s impairment or condition impacts upon their ability to carry out a series of day-to-day activities. We are concerned that this does not always capture the full range of additional costs that disabled people face. This can be seen by the fact that two thirds of individuals are successful when they appeal a decision following their PIP assessment.

That’s why we’re calling for the next government to protect the value of PIP and develop a new assessment for the payment that accurately identifies the range and level of disabled people’s extra costs.

We also know that life is particularly difficult for families where both adults and children face disability related costs.

As such, we want to see PIP and DLA act as a passport to other benefits for families with disabled children, such as free school meals and support with health costs.

Driving down extra costs

Action is also needed to drive down the extra costs that disabled people face in the first place.

Households with a disabled person spend £249 billion a year, the so-called “purple pound”. Yet, disabled people are too often unable to access essential goods and services at an affordable price, making it difficult to capitalise on this spending power.

Many disabled people also encounter poor customer service from businesses, with three quarters having left a shop or business because of a lack of disability awareness.

Two particular sectors where disabled people tell us they struggle as consumers are energy and insurance. For instance, Scope research shows that 29 per cent of disabled people have struggled to pay their energy bills in the past year. In the insurance market, two and a half million disabled people feel they have been overcharged for insurance because of their impairment or condition.

We want the next government to make sure essential markets, such as energy and insurance, have adequate services and support in place to help tackle the problem of additional costs and empower disabled people as consumers.

Tell us what being financially secure means to you

You can read more about our priorities for the next government and how you can register to vote in this election.

What does being financially secure mean to you? Email the stories team at Scope and tell us your experience – stories@scope.org.uk.

You can also join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #EverydayEquality.

Reform is needed to halve the disability employment gap

The Government’s Green Paper consultation on Work, Health and Disability closed last week. Find out how we responded to the consultation and which areas we argued need action from the Government.

The Government has made a welcome commitment to halve the disability employment gap – the difference between the employment rate of disabled people and non-disabled people – which has stood at around 30 percentage points for over a decade. If the Government is serious about increasing disability employment, then it must tackle the barriers individuals face to entering, staying and progressing in work.

Improving out-of-work support

Too many disabled people aren’t getting support to get into and remain in employment. Where disabled people do access support, at Jobcentres or through employment support schemes, many feel it is too generic and does not take account of their needs or interests.

It is vital that all disabled people who want to work have access to voluntary, specialist support that is tailored to their needs. Taking part in any form of employment support should be completely voluntary for disabled people, and have no impact on the financial support they receive.

As well as this, Scope wants to see a total reform of the “fit for work” test, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which decides whether someone is able to receive Employment and Support Allowance.

Currently, the WCA fails to capture the range of barriers to work that disabled people face, which means many individuals are not getting the right support to move in to work. That’s why we’re calling for the WCA to be replaced with separate assessments for financial support and employment support needs.

Supporting disabled people in work

New research by Scope has found that in the last year 58 per cent of disabled people have felt at risk of losing their job because of their impairment or condition. That’s why it’s so important that once disabled people take up jobs, the right support is in place to enable them to stay in work.

Something we want to see is an expansion – and better promotion – of Access to Work, a scheme that provides disabled people with financial support to work. We also want to see the requirement to take Statutory Sick Pay in consecutive blocks to be lifted. This would give individuals more flexibility in taking time off from work, for example through part-time sickness absence or a phased return to work.

Working with employers to drive change

Efforts to halve the disability employment gap will only be successful if we see a shift in how disabled people are perceived in the workplace. The need for action is clear – 85 per cent of disabled people feel employer attitudes haven’t improved since 2012.

Building on progress made with other aspects of workforce diversity, employers should shift from compliance with the law to taking a more proactive approach to attracting, recruiting, supporting and developing disabled employees.

For instance, the Government’s Disability Confident scheme – which provides guidance to employers on hiring disabled people – has a Business Leaders Group which is well-placed to drive best practice among employers through new research and peer-to-peer networking. However, it is crucial that this group has sufficient scope and capability to realise such an ambition.

Next steps following the Green Paper

Scope welcomed the opportunity to respond to this Green Paper. However, this will only lead to change if Government and employers take meaningful steps to tackle the barriers disabled people face to entering and thriving in work.

Therefore, we would like to see a cross-government strategy for disability employment – presented as a White Paper – as soon as possible. This should include a range of reforms to support disabled people in and out of work, along with clear indicators to determine the success of these. It is vital that any proposals are informed by the experiences of disabled people.

Find out more about Scope’s work to tackle barriers to employment for disabled people.

2016 in parliament – Our impact

2016 has been a busy year in politics. We’ve seen the Government make a significant U-turn to stop proposed changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), an important consultation announced on the future of health, work and disability, Brexit and increasing pressure on the Government to provide the social care system with the funds it urgently needs. Scope has focused on protecting the rights of disabled people throughout 2016.

Theresa May used her first speech as Prime Minister to outline her vision for the country. She said she wanted to create a country that worked for everyone and create more opportunity for people, regardless of background. Whilst we welcomed this, much more can be done to help those ‘just about managing’, especially when recent research has uncovered that nearly half of people in poverty are disabled themselves or live in a household with someone who is disabled. We’ve raised these concerns with Government, and we need to keep hearing from you about what needs to change.

While the world was excited by the Paralympics in Rio our research found that whilst 78% of disabled people, through the Paralympic Games, have a positive impact on attitudes towards disability. Only 19% felt that Britain is a better place to be disabled now, than four years ago.

That’s why we have met with officials at Downing Street to emphasise the importance of making their social justice plans focus on improving the lives of disabled people.

Social Care

Social care has dominated the agenda in recent weeks and has been a big talking point all year. At Scope we’ve been calling for sustainable funding for social care to ensure disabled people have access to suitable care. The lack of additional funding in the Autumn Statement was disappointing and the small increase in council tax for social care won’t last and isn’t a long term solution.

In October we shared our research into the experiences of young disabled people and care ‘Leading My Life My Way’ with Government. This research uncovered that 60 per cent of young adults felt let down by their social care provision and a quarter were either only slightly or not at all involved in decisions about their care.

Many young disabled people are not being supported to do the things they want to do in their lives.

“I think it [support package] covers my blindness and my hearing impairments and the practical things I need to do, but it doesn’t give me enough time to go out and socialise.” Ricky, 26, South East

Urgently addressing the funding crisis in social care is the first step to delivering this.

Extra Costs

In March, we saw the disability community unite against proposed changes to PIP announced in the Budget. These changes would have left 640,000 people worse off financially. We warned the Government that these changes would just make disabled people’s lives harder and that our helpline heard from many disabled people concerned about the changes. We urged the Chancellor to think again and consider the impact these moves have on the lives of disabled people.

The Government u-turned and said it would not be going with this plan and committed to no further welfare cuts during this parliament.

In October we published the one-year on report of The Extra Costs Commission looking at action taken by businesses, government, regulators and consumers to drive down the £550 financial penalty of being disabled.

Uber and Marks & Spencer were two examples of companies introducing new products and practices to serve their disabled customers better. We would now like to see more businesses recognise the value of their disabled customers and will be focusing on improving service in the energy and insurance industries in the New Year.

Employment

Following our campaign in 2015, the Government committed to halve the disability employment gap and this year we have continued to call on them to introduce reforms to meet this target.

Alongside other charities this year, we have campaigned changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) due to come into effect in April 2017.

The Government plans to reduce the level of financial support to disabled people in the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). Disabled People in the WRAG have been found unfit for work by the independent Work Capability Assessment. This cut in support of around £30 a week to new claimants would impact nearly half a million people in the WRAG.

We believe this cut will push disabled people further away from the jobs market and make their lives harder rather than helping them overcome existing barriers to employment.

MPs and Peers from across different political parties supported our calls and argued the change must be postponed. Although the Government pushed ahead with this cut, we will continue to campaign against it.

In October the Government published a Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability which set out proposals to reform support for disabled people in and out of work.

We think it is right the Government is consulting on this and welcome some of the proposals, including working more closely with employers, challenging attitudes and halving the disability employment gap. We want to see wholesale reform of the fit for work assessment scheme, employment support to be made voluntary and significant shifts in employer attitudes towards hiring disabled people.

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.

The consultation is open until February and the Government want to feedback on their proposals. Our latest blog on the Green Paper sets out how you can get involved.

This year the new Prime Minister said, ‘we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.’ In 2017 we will be looking to ensure that this includes the UK’s 12.9 million disabled people.

Next year we will continue to campaign for the Government to introduce reforms that support disabled people to find and stay in work, the protection of disability benefits and asocial care system supports disabled people to live independently.

 Read more of our policy blogs.

Share your experiences of claiming Personal Independence Payment

The Government has launched an independent review of how the assessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is working. This follows a previous independent review of PIP in 2014.       

PIP, alongside Disability Living Allowance (DLA), is a payment that provides working-age disabled people with support to meet the extra costs of disability. Our research shows that these costs amount to an average of £550 a month.

These costs might include expensive items of specialised equipment such as wheelchairs, spending more on things like energy to keep warm or taxis to get around, and even certain types of insurance.

A call for evidence has been launched as part of this review to gather the views of individuals who have claimed PIP for themselves, or on someone’s behalf, about their experiences of the process. This includes new claims and DLA reassessment claims, both under normal rules and Special Rules for terminally ill people. In particular, they are interested in the following:

  • How effectively further evidence is being used to assist in making the correct claim decision.
  • Data sharing within the Department for Work and Pensions and across government, including the way information gained from the PIP assessment is shared with other organisations to improve health and care services.
  • The general claimant experience.

Sharing your views will help to inform the review’s final conclusions on the effectiveness of the PIP process, which will be presented to government.

How to respond

This call for evidence closes on Friday 16 September 2016, 5pm. You can respond via the online form.

Alternatively, you can submit a response in the following ways:

Email: pip.independentreview@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Post: PIP Independent Review Team, Department for Work and Pensions, Floor 4, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9NA

This call for evidence is available in a range of formats, including large print, Easy Read, audio, British Sign Language (BSL), Braille, large print, audio cassettes, CDs and BSL DVDs.

To request any of these formats, please use the email and post contact details listed above.

Tell Scope about your experiences of PIP

Scope will be responding to this call for evidence. We are keen to include the experiences of disabled people who claim PIP as part of our response. You can tell us about your experiences in the following ways:

Email: minesh.patel@scope.org.uk

Telephone: 020 7619 7375

Welfare and Work Bill – our priorities in the closing stages

The Welfare and Work Bill that is currently going through Parliament is a big priority for Scope because it will have a major impact on the employment prospects of disabled people.

As scrutiny reaches its final stages in the House of Lords, and as set out in our last blog post on the Bill, Scope is focused on two key issues – opposing the proposed cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for some disabled people, and persuading the Government to report on progress in meeting their commitment to halve the disability employment gap.

Disability employment gap reporting

A key issue for Scope is requiring the Government to report annually on progress in meeting its manifesto commitment to halving the disability employment gap. The first clause of this Bill introduces a reporting obligation on the Government’s progress towards achieving full employment, ensuring Parliamentarians and the public are kept informed of progress towards meeting this target.

Scope believes that this should include a requirement for the Government to report annually on meeting its commitment to halve the disability employment gap, which itself set as a Manifesto commitment.

The gap between disabled people’s employment rate and the rest of the population has remained stubbornly static at around 30% for the last decade. The Government cannot hope achieve its objective of full employment unless it halves this gap. Reporting annually on progress towards doing so, will draw attention and accountability to this very welcome commitment, and will greatly help to prioritise its delivery by the Government.

This looks set to be the first issue that Peers debate then the Bill’s Report Stage starts later today.

Opposing reduction to ESA

On Wednesday, they will turn their attention to the Government’s proposed cut to Employment and Support Allowance for disabled people in the Work Related Activity Group.

In previous blog posts and Parliamentary briefings, we have set out how this proposed cut of £30 a week will adversely affect some disabled people, who have been found unfit for work by an independent assessment. The cut will disincentivise them from finding employment, and push them further from the labour market.

Two important developments have powerfully brought home this message to Parliamentarians recently. At Lords Committee Stage, Scope and our coalition partners in the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), supported Lord Low, and Baronesses Meacher and Grey Thompson, to review the impact of the ESA WRAG cut.

From evidence received from disabled people, as well as organisations representing them, the review found the proposed cut to ESA WRAG would make it much harder for people in this group to find work. This is because it would more difficult to be able to afford training, work experience and volunteering. Cutting benefits would also lead to stress and anxiety as people struggled to pay the bills, affecting their physical and mental health, according to the review’s findings.

It recommends that Government should not push ahead with the cut. Instead, they should put in place better support for disabled people to help them build up their skills and support to look for, and stay in, work.

Disabled people had the opportunity to communicate these messages face to face with MPs  in a lobby of Parliament a couple of weeks ago, which was attended by nearly a hundred members of Parliament.

The review and lobby of Parliament have generated considerable momentum behind the campaign to reverse the ESA WRAG reduction. Both independent and leading opposition Peers have signed up to amendments to scrap the ESA WRAG cut, and its equivalent in the Universal Credit system. Scope and our DBC partners are very hopeful that this will herald a vote against a reduction in ESA on Wednesday night in the House of Lords.

We will be live tweeting the debates on Monday 25 January and Wednesday 27 January, and you can follow proceedings live online on Parliament TV. Watch out for more blog updates on the bill as it leaves the Lords, and MPs consider any changes they have made.  

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.

What the General Election means for us

(Image copyright Michael D Beckwith 2013)

Parliament returns on Monday with a new Conservative Government and a new Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP.

In the run up to the General Election, we called on the next Government to improve the lives of disabled people by:

  • protecting the value of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) / Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • halving the disability employment gap
  • investing in social care so that all disabled people have the support they need to live as independently as possible.

Halving the disability employment gap

We’re really pleased the Conservatives identified halving the disability employment gap as an important part of realising their objective of full employment. Their manifesto said ‘We will aim to halve the disability employment gap; we will transform policy, practice and public attitudes.’

The BBC have reported that as part of the Government’s plans to achieve full employment, there will be an Employment Bill within the Queen’s Speech that aims to create two million new jobs over the next five years.

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. Yet only 48 per cent are currently in work. We will be looking for the Government to ensure that disabled people are at the heart of employment strategies and regional growth plans.

This week we have seen a welcome rise in the number of disabled people in work but the disability employment gap has remained largely unchanged over the last decade, at around 30 per cent.

We have made a number of recommendations on how the Government could increase the disability employment rate by:

  • creating more flexible workplaces
  • ensuring disabled people are connected to regional growth
  • ensuring that all disabled people receive effective and personalised support.

There is also an important economic case for addressing the disability employment gap. A recent report by Scope found that a 10 percentage point increase in the disability employment rate would increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by £45 billion by 2030 and also result in a £12billion gain to the public purse.

It’s vital that the Government continues to see addressing the disability employment gap as a key part in achieving full employment, so that disabled people who want and are able to work are supported to find a jobs, stay in work and progress in their careers.

Extra costs payments

Life can cost more if you are disabled and the extra costs faced by disabled people can have a significant impact on disabled people’s living standards. Scope research shows that disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on costs related to their disability. PIP and DLA are payments that are designed to contribute towards these extra costs.

During the election the Conservative Party announced they planned to make £12billion worth of cuts to welfare and there was much speculation on their welfare spending plans.

Last year in his speech at the Conservative Party Conference the Chancellor said that a future Conservative Government would protect DLA and PIP in any freeze on benefits, a commitment that was also in their Manifesto.

We’ll be looking to the Government to protect the value of extra costs payments.

Independent living

Working age disabled people are a third of all social care users. Social care supports disabled people to live independently, work and play an active part in the community.

However levels of unmet need within social care are high, with 97,000 disabled people who would have received social care five years ago, now receiving no support. That is why Scope has called on the Government to introduce a new sustainable funding settlement for social care.

During the General Election there was considerable focus on the conservative party’s commitments on NHS funding, but it’s crucial though that investment in the NHS is not looked at in isolation from social care funding.

Earlier this year 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.

When the Government sets out their priorities within the Queen’s Speech, we hope to hear about increased and ongoing investment in social care, so that the ambitions of the Care Act, to promote independence and well-being, can be realised.

Find out more about Scope’s campaign to improve living standards (PDF).