Tag Archives: labour

What the Conservatives and Labour say about welfare reform and disability

Today the Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith gave a speech to mark the 10th anniversary of the formation of the Centre for Social Justice think-tank about welfare reform.

Here is what he had to say about disability:

“Of course in the most severe cases of sickness and disability, it is right that welfare should support individuals, but even then, it must be about more than sustainment alone. It should be about helping people to take greater control over their lives.

For all those who are able, work should be seen as the route to doing so – for work is about more than just money. It is about what shapes us, lifts our families, delivers security, and helps rebuild our communities. Work has to be at the heart of our welfare reform plan, or all we will do is increase dependency not lessen it.”

Read the speech in full on the Spectator website, or with other comments on the Guardian’s politics live blog.

On Tuesday Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary laid out her party’s stance on social security at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank, and here is what she said about disability:

“Now it’s important to say at the outset that there will always be people who cannot do paid work, because of illness or disability.

“And it is part of our responsibility to them to make their rights a reality: rights to dignity and respect, to a decent standard of living, and to the resources and support that can empower them to contribute and participate equally and fully in society.”

Read the speech in full on the New Statesman website.

The bedroom tax, ATOS and social care at the Labour Party conference

Guest post from Megan Cleaver, Parliamentary Officer at Scope.

It was the second leg of Scope’s conference tour last weekend when the Labour Party headed to Brighton for their annual gathering.

It was an important week for Labour disability policy as the Party published their Making Rights a Reality (PDF) report which included two key announcements.

After a long running campaign against the ‘bedroom tax’, a measure which will cost over 400,000 disabled people between £624 and £1144 per year, Labour Leader Ed Miliband promised delegates that they would scrap the policy if they got into power in 2015. This is a welcome move as for many disabled people, a spare bedroom is not a luxury, but an essential- needed for specialist equipment, or so their severely disabled child can sleep separately from their siblings.

And there was more good news from Shadow Welfare Secretary Liam Byrne who committed to ending the Government’s contract with ATOS, who currently undertake the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). But while there are countless horror stories around the behaviour of ATOS assessors which has provoked the ire of many disabled people, the blame cannot be pinned squarely on them for the failings of the WCA.

As we said to Liam Byrne, Shadow Disability Minister Anne McGuire and Shadow Employment Minister Stephen Timms at conference, if Labour is seriously committed to getting disabled people into work, and not just off benefits, there needs to be a complete rethink of the whole assessment process to ensure it addresses the many barriers disabled people face when it comes to finding a job. Just handing a P45 to ATOS is not enough.

Arguably the most transformational policy announcement to be made at conference was Andy Burnham’s vision for ‘Whole Person Care’, paving the way for the full integration of the health and social care systems with one service (with one budget) coordinating a person’s physical, mental and social needs. This vision is an exciting prospect for disabled people who are facing their own ‘social care crisis’, often falling through the cracks between the NHS and social care system.

In his leader’s speech, Ed Miliband likened the scale of the ambition of ‘Whole Person Care’ to that of the creation of the NHS is 1948. But like much of the debate on this issue, he framed the reforms to social care purely as a means of solving the care crisis for older people. But when a third of social care users are working-aged disabled people, it is vital that the care system works for them.

As Paralympian Sophie Christiansen highlighted in her speech at the Women and Equalities discussion panel (where she received the first standing ovation at Labour Conference), getting the right social care was vital to her being able to live independently and train to become a gold medal winning equestrian.

Social care is the cornerstone of independence for disabled people. It gives them the vital support which enables them get up, get washed, get dressed so they can go to work, get involved in their local community, and reach their potential. And this is the message we will take to the Conservative Party as the Scope conference tour makes its final stop in Manchester.

Read our previous blog from the Lib Dem conference.

Ed Miliband’s welfare speech: three talking points

Ed Miliband has given a high-profile speech on welfare. The BBC’s headline is that Labour would cap social security spending. But underneath the soundbite the speech covered a lot of ground. The Scope policy team considers what it might mean for disabled people:

1. Investing in better employment support will bring down benefit expenditure

Successive Governments have recognised that supporting more disabled people into work can bring down social security spending. But too many programmes have had the wrong focus. Scope has long been clear that the Work Capability Assessment doesn’t work; our figures show that only 1,000 disabled people have got a job through the Work Programme. Ed Miliband is right to make this a big issue when it comes to welfare. But he needs to be clear that the reason unemployment is high for disabled people is because there are barriers to the labour market and a lack of appropriate jobs – not because disabled people don’t want to work.

We need to assess what the barriers disabled people face actually are rather than focusing on whether someone is medically able to stand up in the shower.

And we need to make sure those barriers are met through a programme of support that works for disabled people and finds jobs that they actually want, rather than pushing them into low-pay, low-skill jobs that only work in the short term.

Here’s Scope’s thinking on improving employment support for disabled people.

2. Spending money on social care can reduce broader public spending

Ed Miliband wants to cap something called Annually Managed Expenditure (AME), public spending that fluctuates with the economy. Welfare spending is the main chunk of this, and this is the basis for the ‘cap welfare’ headlines.

Social care doesn’t come from this budget. But there’s a crucial link here. If disabled people don’t have the right support to get up, dressed and out of the house in the morning, they won’t be able to play a part in their community and the wider economy.

With the right support, disabled people will be able to to contribute more to the economy, creating savings in social security expenditure and generating tax revenues.

Rather than capping Annually Managed Expenditure (AME), Labour should invest in areas like social care that could make real savings across the whole of public services – not just welfare.

Scope’s research shows that for every £1 spent on support, £1.30 comes back into society – and 28p of this saving is directly reduces AME.

3. Some disabled people will always need benefits.

Miliband said: “We should also support disabled people. Those who cannot work. And those who want to work and need help finding it.”

This is really important, because disabled people will be concerned about the impact on their support of combining a shift to a ‘contributory welfare’ system and a cap on AME. Hopefully this means that when it comes to disabled people, Labour’s starting point won’t be “How much money do we have?”, but rather “What kind of support we need to provide?”

And hopefully the result will be plans for making this a better place for disabled people.