Tag Archives: policy

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.

Disabled families hit hard by extra costs

Una Summerson, Head of Campaigns at Contact a Family, writes about why urgent action is needed from the Government and energy companies on extra costs for families with disabled children:

Contact a Family’s Counting the Costs campaign found a sharp rise in families with disabled children going without heating and food over the last 2 years. This is leading to ill health. With more than 3,500 responses from UK families with disabled children,

More than a quarter have extra costs of £300 or more every month relating to their child’s disability. The biggest costs being higher heating and utility bills.

Looking ahead, 60% of surveyed families see their financial situation worsening in the next year. Shaped by what thousands of families with disabled children say would help, the Counting the Costs campaign calls for urgent action by the UK government to stop this alarming trend. However, the campaign also recognises it’s not just about making sure the benefits and tax system adequately reflects the extra costs and barriers to work families face.

We are calling for energy companies take action to include all disabled children in their eligibility criteria for the Warm Home Discount Scheme. This scheme may lead to a rebate worth up to £140 on electricity bills. You can qualify if your energy provider is part of the scheme and:

  • you’re a pensioner who receives the guarantee credit of pension credit (the core group)
  • you fall into the ‘broader group’ of people that your energy supplier gives the discount to.

Each supplier has their own criteria for deciding who fits into the ‘broader group’. Some state that disabled children can be part of this ‘broader group’. Some don’t mention them at all, while others accept them if they also have a low income or child under 5. Confused, yes so are we!

Contact a Family’s helpline adviser Marian Gell says “It’s a minefield understanding the different eligible criteria for us let alone busy families. For example, British Gas use Universal Credit to determine eligibility. Since relatively few people are getting universal credit and it seems likely that many families will not be moved onto Universal Credit for several years. A family with a disabled child getting income support and child tax credit would not qualify according to these rules.”

The confusing and differing criteria, alongside the limited time families with disabled children means many often miss out on the scheme. We would therefore like to see a standard approach across all suppliers. Eligibility could be simply determined by receipt of child Disability Living Allowance. Ideally, we need disabled children not just to be recognised as part of the ‘broader group’ but to be part of the core group who receive the discount automatically and don’t have to apply.

Get involved with the campaign or find out about help with fuel bills on the Contact a Family website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting extra costs payments

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

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

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

Commission on Extra Costs

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

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

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

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

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

A million futures: halving the disability employment gap

Today we published a new report exploring disabled people’s working lives. The report – ‘A million futures’ – shows that last year alone, 220,000 more disabled people fell out of work than found a new job.

We wanted to explore why disabled people are struggling to stay in jobs.

Our new research with hundreds of disabled people found that a lack of flexibility in the workplace is a critical issue.

“I, like thousands of others, fall into the grey area of too disabled to hold down a job without health implications, yet not disabled enough to get help from the Government.” – Sarah, Isle of Wight

Nearly half (48%) of the 700 respondents to a Scope survey said that flexible working time and practices could have helped them stay in work.

Many disabled people told us that a key benefit of flexible working is that it can allow them to manage changes in their lives related to disability, or to manage a fluctuating condition, or recover from treatment.

Yet our survey found that only one in three had been offered the flexibility they needed.

“If I’d been given the opportunity, I could have sat down with them and said ‘look, this is what I’m capable of doing, this is what would help me get back into the workplace” – Jane, West Midlands

As a result, too many disabled people and their families find themselves relying on taking sick leave to manage this need for flexibility – often against their wishes.

Over half (60%) of those on long-term sick leave are disabled people. Once in sick leave, it can be very difficult to return to work.

Providing better support for disabled people must be a priority for Government and employers – and can bring benefits for everyone.

For those disabled people who are able to continue working, it means they can continue working, contributing, and taking home a pay packet.

Employers are able to keep hold of the knowledge, experience and contacts that often experienced disabled people can bring.

Crucially, better in-work support can bring benefits to the Government, by rebalancing spending on expensive programmes back to supporting those in work.

For more details, see the full report.

Find out more about our previous reports:

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

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

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

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

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

Buying specialist products and adapted equipment 

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

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

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

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

“The special aids are horrendously expensive.” – Jules

Things disabled people need to buy more of

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

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

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

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

Paying more for everyday things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What needs to happen

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

We think two things need to happen.

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

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

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

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

Priced out: ending the financial penalty of disability by 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet disabled people still feel their effects and:

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

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

Protecting crucial extra costs payments

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

But recent and planned welfare reform threatens these important payments.

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

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

We recommend:

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

Making extra costs payments go further

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

We recommend:

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

Driving down extra costs

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

We recommend:

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

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

We recommend:

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

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

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

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