Tag Archives: policy

Autumn Statement 2016: A missed opportunity to invest in social care

During his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor, Phillip Hammond spoke about creating an economy that works for everyone and helping ordinary families.

However, we heard little from the Chancellor today that will help support the UK’s 12.9 million disabled people.

Social care

Despite calls from across the sector and from his own MPs the Chancellor didn’t take the opportunity to invest in the social care system.

Social care is the support disabled people rely on to get up, get dressed, get out, and lead independent lives. However, after years of underfunding the system is under extreme pressure and needs urgent investment.

Without long-term and sustainable funding for the social care system more disabled people are at risk of slipping into crisis without access to the support they need. Nearly a third of young disabled people told us they already aren’t getting the support they need to live independent lives. The Chancellor wants everyone to be able to share in economic growth but without adequate social care many disabled people will be unable to work and contribute to their communities in the way they choose.

Employment

The Chancellor said he was privileged to report on an economy where unemployment is at an 11 year low, however the disability employment gap has remained at around 30 per cent for a decade.

Scope analysis also shows that disabled people are almost three times as likely to fall out of work as non-disabled people. If the Government are going to achieve their manifesto commitment of halving the disability employment gap they need to do much more.

Disabled people need a broad package of support to find and stay in work. This includes challenging negative attitudes, a greater focus on flexible working practices and investment in the Access to Work Scheme.

Despite last week’s vote in the House of Commons calling on the Government to pause changes to Employment Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group, the Chancellor did not reverse this decision today. Half a million disabled people rely on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and are already struggling to make ends meet. Reducing their financial support won’t help more disabled people into work and we will continue to campaign against this decision.

Responding to pressure from MPs and charities, the Chancellor did announce changes to the Universal Credit “taper rate”.

This change to the rate at which someone loses their benefit as they increase their hours in work will be a slight improvement for some disabled people.

Extra costs

The Government today announced  further investment in digital infrastructure, including a £1 billion investment in broadband. For disabled people to benefit from the investment the Government must work to close the digital divide. 25 per cent of disabled adults have never used the internet compared to six per cent of non-disabled adults. We need to see targeted investment in digital skills training for disabled people and action to improve web accessibility.

The Chancellor said he wants to make sure the retail energy market is functioning fairly for all consumers. Life costs £550 a month more for disabled people, due to costs such as a higher fuel bills. It is vital that both the Government and energy companies think about how they can support disabled people with their energy costs more effectively and set out details for how they plan to do this.

The extra costs faced by disabled people mean many are just about managing and are the people Theresa May promised to help in her first speech as Prime Minister.

The Government must do more to include the UK’s 12.9 million disabled people in their vision of a country which works for everyone.   

What’s behind the disability employment gap?

This morning, the Government has published the latest data on disabled people in and out of work. So what does it tell us?

We know disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people.

We have been calling on the Government to deliver on its commitment to halve the disability employment gap, and to deliver a strategy that tackles the barriers disabled people face in and out of work.

New statistics out today

Data from the labour force survey published this morning shows that around 80 per cent of non-disabled people are in work, compared with 48 per cent of disabled people.

The difference between the two rates is often called the disability employment gap. Today’s results show the gap is 32 percentage points.

You can read our reaction to the labour stats on our website.

Barriers to work

Although the overall employment rate is higher than ever, the disability employment gap has barely shifted over the last ten years.

We know work isn’t right for everyone, and believe everyone’s contribution to society should be valued whether they work or not. Many disabled people tell us they do want to work, but face barriers in society, both moving in to work and in keeping their jobs.

These include things like buildings and transport not being accessible and working hours not being flexible.

Employers

Text reads: 85 per cent of disabled people feel employer attitudes have not improved since 2012

Behind many of these barriers is attitudes employers hold towards disabled people. We know 85 per cent of disabled people feel employer attitudes haven’t improved since 2012.

While employers are legally required to try to make adjustments to support disabled employees, very few employers understand how this requirement  affects them

Falling out of work

Digging a little deeper in to the labour force survey, we’ve also found that disabled people are nearly three times more likely to leave work than non-disabled people.

We’ve also found that people who acquire an impairment as adults are 4 times more likely to fall out of work than non-disabled people This shows how important it is that employers offer support and make adjustments for their employees.

The Government recently published Improving Lives , a consultation on plans to change support for disabled people in and out of work. At Scope, we want to see the Government listen to disabled people’s views and to drive a shift change in employer attitudes and workplace practices in the UK.

Tell us about your experiences

Have you become disabled since you started working?  We’d love to hear about your experiences. Contact: stories@scope.org.uk for more information.

“I want to make the extraordinary seem ordinary” – disability and employment

At a fringe event at the recent Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, organised by Scope and the Fabian Society, senior Labour Party parliamentarians, policy experts and disabled people shared their experiences of employment. The group considered how to ensure disabled people played a key role in the changing world of work.

The panel consisted of Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Debbie Abrahams MP, Neil Coyle MP, General Secretary of the Fabian Society Andy Harrop, Scope’s Head of Policy, Research and Public Affairs Anna Bird and Lauren Pitt.

In this blog Lauren talks about her experiences of employment and her thoughts following the panel event.

I lost my sight at the age of 13. When I graduated from university in 2015, I began what turned out to be a long and difficult job hunt. I applied for over 250 jobs but despite being qualified, I only got interviews about 5% of the time. The interviews were generally very negative about my disability. They’d ask “How are you going to be able to do this job?” and I would think “Well I can, otherwise I wouldn’t have applied” but it’s difficult if you’re not being given the chance.

“In phone interviews, when I mentioned that I was disabled their attitudes changed. Potential employers were suddenly less interested in what I had to say.” – Lauren, in her opening speech

I eventually got offered a job and I’m really enjoying it.  When Scope invited me to speak at this event, I immediately said yes. For me, none of the process of getting into work was easy. I came because I wanted to make that process easier for other people. I’m keen to change attitudes towards disability in the workplace and by sharing my story, I want to help disabled people have the confidence to get jobs.

I want to make the extraordinary seem ordinary

People think it’s extraordinary that disabled people work but I want to make the extraordinary seem ordinary. We want to contribute to our communities as much as an able-bodied person. We have no reason not to be and we shouldn’t be stopped from doing that.

Employers may see disabled people as having certain disadvantages, but those disadvantages can actually be very advantageous. We have to be problem solvers, we’re determined, resilient and we want to work.

A massive barrier is people’s attitudes. People see us in the Paralympics and think “oh look at that blind person running” but we can do so many other things. People need to see the variety of jobs that disabled people are in.

The panel sit behind a white table in front of a screen that reads "An inclusive future"

Policies and support need to be better

At the Job Centre, there was the assumption that I only wanted part-time work. Well, no. I might be disabled but I can still work full time. I want to contribute as much as anyone else and I can.

Information about the support available also needs to be better. Technology is essential in supporting me to do my job as well as anyone else can and that’s provided by Access to Work. But it took four weeks after my assessment for my equipment to arrive – four weeks where I wasn’t able to do my job. Also, research done by Scope showed that around half of people said they don’t know about Access to Work or don’t know how to get it. Well, that needs to change. Without Access to Work, there’s no way I could do my job.

Stories show people what’s possible

We need to share success stories and use them to show disabled people and employers that disability doesn’t have to be a barrier. Stories change people’s minds. Scope’s End the Awkward campaign has changed people’s minds already – people often talk to me about it. By seeing disabled people doing things, you believe that it’s possible.

It’s also important that disabled people believe in themselves. When you see others succeeding, you think “Maybe I can do that”. Commonly more negative stories are shared and people see those and think it’s not going to happen. I know towards the end of my job hunt I wanted to give up. I just didn’t think I was ever going to get a job. I knew I could do it but by the end it was like “Can I?”

A massive thing for disabled people is confidence. The world is not an easy place to live if you’re disabled – you’re faced with barriers left, right and centre. But there are also ways to overcome those barriers. And it’s about learning those ways and being given the right support. You get ground down by applying for jobs and not getting anywhere.

Lauren crouching down with her guide dog, both wearing robes at her graduation ceremony
Lauren and her guide dog at her graduation ceremony

Sharing knowledge is really important

Another thing I would love to see would be the option to have a mentor – either another people who is disabled and currently in work or an employer. Sharing experience is a massive thing because it builds up that self confidence and that knowledge. You’re not going to learn something unless you’ve got someone showing you. I want everyone to see that disabled people can work just like everyone else. My line manager went for an interview and said that she worked with someone who’s blind and they were like “How?” and she was liked “Well, like this…” and that’s the thing, it’s a transfer of knowledge.

I also think it’s important to educate people when they’re young, which is something Scope are doing at the moment, with their Role Models programme. The more people see at a younger age, the better their attitudes will be. Sometimes older people say it’s amazing that I’m working – well, it’s not really that amazing and they wouldn’t say that to my brother, who’s sighted.

Working together to change the future of employment

Today was great. Everyone on the panel spoke about the many things that can be done to help disabled people find and stay in work. We also spoke about things that aren’t being done that should be – some things that can easily be implemented and other things that may be more difficult and how funds can be better used.

I really enjoyed having this opportunity to talk to disabled people, politicians and people who worked for different charities, all of us coming together to share the knowledge and ideas that we have, to help change the future for disabled people in employment.

Scope has partnered with the Fabian Society to produce a series of essays that look at how the modern and future world of work can be inclusive for disabled people.

To read more about Lauren’s journey into work, read her previous blog.

If you have an employment story you would like to share, get in touch with the Stories team.

Do disabled people have enough choice and control in social care?

The NHS published its latest statistics on social care this month, which showed improvements in many areas for disabled social care users. But dig a little deeper into the data, and you’ll find that there is still room for improvement, with many people reporting they need more choice and control in their lives.

There is a general rule at the moment in social care that things are not going so well for the people who use this essential service. Research Scope undertook, for example, found more than 50 per cent of participants felt social care does not support working age disabled people to live independently, and in separate research on integrated care we found this system needs to get better at taking into account the needs of working age disabled people at the planning and delivery stages so it can work for all social care users, not primarily for those over 65.

We know that a significant proportion of young disabled people – those between ages 17 and 30 – can suffer ‘significant setbacks’ as a result of inadequate care, which includes not getting the care they need for extended periods, or finding it difficult to access employment. So with this year’s latest survey results on social care user’s perceptions of the service published two weeks ago, are things getting better? Perhaps.

What we found

Every year NHS Digital brings out its Personal Social Services Adult Social Care Survey. The survey asks around 70,000 social care users what their views are on a number of aspects of the service, of which approximately 97.5 per cent identified a condition or impairment as their prime reason for needing social care. We drew our findings from this group.

What we found from our research is that broadly speaking, many disabled social care users see the system as delivering a decent standard of care. That care supports them to have more control over their lives, as well interact with others socially (which many who don’t rely on social care support take for granted).

When asked whether care helps them to have a better quality of life, a staggering 92 per cent said yes. And over 60 per cent said they felt very good or good about their life at the moment. Few would say these aren’t top marks for social care’s score card.

Digging a little deeper

It’s only when you dig a bit deeper into the data that more still needs to be done to improve outcomes for disabled social care users. On questions about choice and control, a significant proportion (34 per cent) reported as having as much choice and control over their lives as they wanted, and 90 per cent said care and support services help disabled people to have control over their daily life. This still leaves two thirds (66 per cent) of respondents who felt they could have more control over their lives, and 6 per cent having no control over their daily life.

On social contact, levels are good but there is room for improvement. Generally respondents said that they had as much social contact as they want (45 per cent). But for 32 per cent of respondents, the amount of social contact they had was just “adequate”, meaning for some there is a need for improvement, and the remaining 22 per cent said they were not getting enough or felt socially isolated.

What next?

It is really promising to see progress is being made and satisfaction is on the up in some areas of social care. Central government and local authorities still have some work to do to drive those numbers up across the board, and we recognise this starts by increasing funding into social care in order to make the good intentions of the Care Act achievable.

Later this year, we will publish a report on young disabled people’s experiences of using support services to live independently. Read more about our work on social care on our website. 

What to expect from the Queen’s Speech

Today Her Majesty the Queen will deliver a speech outlining the government’s legislative priorities for the 2016/17 parliamentary year in what will be defining year for Prime Minister David Cameron.

We’ve been looking at the Bills which might be included in the speech, and the impact they may have on disabled people and their families.

Life chances agenda

On 11 January the Prime Minister outlined his vision for the government’s life chances strategy. The strategy outlines how the government plan to tackle social barriers and help children, born into disadvantage or poverty, through opportunities to advance themselves.  Many of the ideas in the Prime Minister’s speech could be launched within the Queen’s Speech.

The Queen’s Speech is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to build upon work on the life chances agenda to ensure that disabled people are able to reach their full potential. It is vital the government prioritises key issues of independent living; extra costs disabled people face and halving the employment gap.

An energy bill?

The Extra Costs Commission was a year-long independent inquiry that identified ways to drive down extra costs for disabled people. The report found disabled people spent an extra £550 (on average) a month – higher than normal energy costs was one area the Commission specifically highlighted.

The government draft energy bill will deliver an energy smart meter into every British home by 2020 and accelerate the time it takes for individuals to switch suppliers.

However, in order for disabled people to access information about different tariffs, it is important that energy comparison and switching services have accessible websites and offline support options as well, e.g. telephone. By failing to meet the needs of disabled people, businesses could be missing out on a share of £420 million in business each week.

As such, it is critical that the government and energy regulators take steps to ensure a greater focus by energy companies is placed on the needs of disabled people – one in three fuel poor homes has a disabled person in it.

A digital economy bill?

Another piece of legislation widely reported to be announced concerns telephone masts, broadband connections and digital infrastructure. The Bill is likely to be part of a broader digital strategy, launched by culture minister Ed Vaizey in late 2015 and will also feature commitments on a universal service obligation for superfast broadband.

However, 27 per cent of disabled adults have never used the internet, compared to 11 per cent of the adult population overall. Therefore, any new digital strategy must tackle this digital divide and ensure disabled people can access the best deals.

Next steps

We are not expecting any further bills that relate to employment but it is important to ensure more disabled people are supported to find and stay in work and that this approach forms a significant focus of the life chances agenda. Last week the government announced plans to publish a Green Paper later in the year, a document setting out new policies, regarding a strategy for supporting disabled people.

Many disabled people want to work and are pushing hard to find jobs, but they continue to face huge barriers. Too many disabled people are not able to access the support they need to enter and stay in work and the Green Paper is an important opportunity to address these issues and we hope the government does so.

Scope will be following the speech and subsequent closely, analysing how the measures announced will affect disabled people. Follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with how the speech unfolds.

Welfare Reform and Work Bill: next steps after the Lords’ vote

Our last blog on the bill outlined the two priority areas for Scope – the proposed reduction in financial support to some disabled people and reporting on the Government’s progress in getting disabled people in to work.

The Bill has now reached ‘ping pong’ stage – it will be passed between the House of Lords and the House of Commons until an agreement can be reached.

The amendments

During their last debate in January, members of the House of Lords voted on a number of changes to the Bill, including:

  1. Preventing unemployed disabled people from losing essential support

The Bill proposes a reduction in financial support for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group Employment of Support Allowance of around £30 per week.

This would impact nearly half a million people, risking households falling in to financial hardship and pushing disabled people further away from the jobs market.

The Government’s plans to reduce this support were defeated by 283 votes to 198 at the House of Lords. Now the Bill is being passed back to the Commons, it will fall to MPs to either uphold or reject this decision.

We think MPs should accept this amendment because we are worried about the impact a reduction in financial support could have. Disabled people are usually out of work for longer periods of time than people claiming jobseekers allowance. They are less likely to have savings and more likely to be in debt than non-disabled people, which makes adjusting to a reduction in income much more difficult.

Whether it’s paying for an internet connection to look for jobs, to transport to an interview, or appropriate work clothing, the process of finding work can come with substantial additional costs for disabled people. Reducing the amount of money available to meet these costs could move some disabled people further away from work.

People who are currently supported under the Work Related Activity Group should be protected from these changes, which are intended to only affect new claimants from April 2017. However, an unintended consequence of this could mean that some disabled people are put off starting work, because if they were to then fall out of work they would receive ESA at the new lower rate.

  1. Measuring progress towards halving the disability employment gap

In their 2015 election manifesto, the Government committed to halving the disability employment gap.

The employment rate for disabled people doesn’t follow economic cycles in the same way as the employment rate for the wider population. This means it’s crucial that we measure progress towards reducing the gap in employment between disabled and non-disabled people to ensure that disabled people have the same opportunities to get in to and progress in work as everyone else.

This priority was raised through another amendment to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which proposed to make annual reporting on progress on the gap a legal requirement for government.

Although this amendment wasn’t taken up, we were pleased to hear Lord Freud ‘formally commit’to including updates on progress in reducing the disability employment gap within a new annual report on progress towards full employment. His comments mark the firmest commitment from government in this area over the course of the bill so far.

We are now looking for more detail on what reporting will involve. It is essential that changes in the employment gap are measured against the same criteria on an annual basis. This will give a clear indication of where further work is needed to ensure the government makes real progress towards its goal.

We will be live tweeting the debate on Tuesday 23 February, and you can follow proceedings live online on Parliament TV. Watch out for more blog updates on the bill as it progresses through parliament.  

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.  

Life cost me £10,000 extra last year… Because I’m disabled

Guest post by Catherine Scarlett, who spoke at a panel discussion we held in partnership with the Fabian Society at last week’s Labour Party conference.

The subject was the extra costs disabled people face, and the other panellists included Debbie Abrahams, the new shadow minister for disabled people. Catherine has a neurological condition and uses a powered wheelchair.

I first got involved with Scope’s work on extra costs nearly a year ago, when I filled in an online questionnaire about the extra things I have to pay for because I’m disabled.

I’d just shelled out an eye-watering £7,600 for a wheelchair with powered wheels – which came out of my savings, although some of the costs were later refunded by Access to Work.

I started adding up other expenses, and realised in total that year, my extra costs had been well over £10,000.

At the same time, I was about to lose my job. I had been determined to keep working after I became disabled, but my employers appeared equally determined to get rid of me.

I was reading stories in the papers about how disabled people got masses of hand-outs, and online comments accusing us of being shirkers and frauds.

So when I was asked to be on the panel about extra costs at the Labour Party Conference this week, I jumped at the chance. I feel it’s vital that real people tell their stories – they make far more impact on the public than statistics.

I managed to put back a month’s hospital admission for a day so I could get to Brighton for the event.

Talking about my extra costsCath-blog

On the day, I described some of the challenges that I have faced since I became disabled. From trying to find information about equipment, to getting support at home and at work, it can be a bewildering and frustrating process.

I outlined some examples of my extra costs. I’ve had to pay more than £3,000 for a folding wheelchair frame that fits into my car, plus £500 to replace broken parts.

Using a wheelchair damages your clothes, so I have to replace them often – two coats and 20 pairs of gloves last year alone. I’ve had to pay for a stair lift at home. I need a cleaner to do the jobs I can’t manage, at £30 a week, and my gas and electricity costs are far higher.

I’ve also needed to travel to London from Yorkshire eight times this year for hospital visits, costs I have to cover myself.

Even the hotel room I stayed at after the panel discussion was more expensive – I had to pay an extra £70 for a room which was accessible for me.

Extra costs payments

I have received Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and later Personal Independence Payments (PIP), since shortly after I became disabled, and they have been vital for my independence and quality of life.

Getting a wheelchair 18 months ago gave me my life back. Without DLA, and now PIP, I wouldn’t have been able to finance it.

I wouldn’t be able to travel to London for treatment, which would mean I lose my chance of improving my physical condition.

And I wouldn’t be able to pay the everyday extra expenses without financial hardship. Losing my job has been a major challenge to my financial resilience.

The social security system needs to be supportive and transparent, and it needs to ensure that disabled people get enough financial support to cover their actual extra costs. Currently there’s a big shortfall.

The event was brilliant for me, as it gave me the chance to share my story with a lot of influential people. I found that many members of the audience also had similar stories. I strongly believe that discussion with disabled people is vital in policy-making, and I’m hopeful that events like this will make a difference.

Read more about the day from our Public Affairs Team or find out more about the extra costs disabled people face on our website.

Four things we’ll say to MPs on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill

This afternoon, Scope is giving oral evidence to a committee scrutinising the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. It aims to achieve full employment in the economy and reforms a number of working age benefits that will impact on the lives of disabled people.

Scope will be putting forward the following four key priorities to MPs:

Halving the disability employment gap

Scope was very pleased with the government’s bold and ambitious manifesto commitment to halving the disability employment gap, taking forward a Scope pre-election recommendation, set out in our Million Futures report.   

In order to see this through, we want to see the government include a reporting requirement on halving the disability gap to clause 1 on full employment reporting. Getting a million more disabled people back to work, will be essential to realising the government’s vital aim on full employment.

Research for Scope set out in our ‘Enabling Work’ report shows the substantial economic benefits of even small increases in the disability employment rate – to give just one example, a 10 percentage point increase in the disability employment rate will grow Gross Domestic Product by £45 billion by 2030.

Oppose reduction in Employment Support Allowance payments to the Work Related Activity Group

The government is cutting the financial support provided to disabled people through the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG).

We do not see this as an answer to halving the disability employment gap. Disabled people placed in ESA WRAG have been found ‘unfit for work’ by the independent Work  Capability Assessment. Rather than incentivising disabled people to find work, this will push them further away from the job market, and make their lives harder.

Improving employment support for disabled people

Research shows that disabled people very much want to work, but they face a range of barriers to doing so.

Scope wants to see the government bring forward detailed plans for the development of improved employment support for disabled people in order to enable them to enter, stay and progress in the world of work. Scope has a number of proposals on what specialised employment support should look like for disabled people.

Enhancing extra costs payments for disabled people

Scope welcomes the recognition in this Bill of the importance of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in meeting the extra costs of disability. Scope’s research shows that disabled people’s extra costs average £550 a month, around £360 of which are met by DLA/PIP.

Scope believes it’s critical the government to build on its commitment to protect DLA/PIP from cuts, by enhancing it through a triple lock so that it’s value rises by the higher of CPI inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent.

You can follow Scope’s evidence session with MPs today via Twitter  and watch this space for a report back on the outcome of Scope’s lobbying on these issues.

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.