Tag Archives: social care

Our priorities – influencing government in 2017

It already seems that Brexit is set to be the biggest political story of 2017 with the Government expected to trigger Article 50, beginning the formal process of the UK leaving the European Union, by the end of March. We think it is really important that disabled people’s voices are heard as part of this process and vital that progress towards equality made in recent years is not lost.

There will also be plenty of other important moments throughout the year and we will be working hard, with you, to make sure issues which affect disabled people’s lives stay high on the political agenda.

Social Care

Social care was hitting the headlines at the end of 2016, with warnings from the Local Government Association and Care Quality Commission that the system is in crisis. With the Government accepting a long-term solution to care funding needs to be found, social care is likely to remain high on the political agenda in 2017. Some additional funding will enter the system this year through an increase in council tax and from the Better Care Fund, but with a funding gap of £4.6 billion, this won’t provide the long term solution needed to meet rising demand and costs.

Social care is the support disabled people rely on to get up, get dressed, get out, and lead independent lives. Without that support disabled people can become isolated, can’t contribute to society and risk slipping into crisis. That’s why we are campaigning for long-term and adequate funding for care. Over 400,000 working age disabled people rely on social care, and with much of the recent focus on how care affects older people, we will be continuing to raise awareness with decision makers of disabled people as users of social care. 55 per cent of disabled care users tell us the system never supports their independence, so we are campaigning for a care system which supports disabled people to live independently and have choice and control over their care.

Employment

In February the Government’s consultation on disability, health and work will close. We want to see the Government take the opportunity to bring about real reform of the support disabled people receive both in and out of work.

The Government announced in October last year that people with severe conditions will receive continued Employment Support Allowance without needing repeated Work Capability Assessments. This is a welcome change but we want to see the Government go further in 2017 and completely overhaul the Work Capability Assessment so that it identifies the full range of barriers disabled people face to work.

We believe disabled people must be protected from any additional conditions linked to the support they receive. We would campaign against any attempts to impose requirements on disabled people receiving support.

The Government want to hear from disabled people about their experiences of employment support services and at work. Read more about how you can submit evidence to the consultation. Later in the year we are expecting the Government to publish a more detailed plan about how they intend to reform support for disabled people following the consultation, and at Scope we will be pushing for swift action.

Employers also have a key role to play in halving the disability employment gap. 85 per cent of disabled people think employer attitudes haven’t improved over the last four years and more needs to be done to encourage employers to create flexible modern practices. The Government should set out a long-term vision for Disability Confident this year and develop a campaign promoting the business benefits of disability employment.

Despite significant pressure on the Government from MPs from all political parties, the reduction in financial support for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group of Employment Support Allowance is going ahead in April 2017. We will continue to raise concerns about the harmful impact this will have on disabled people and call on the Government to reserve this decision.

Extra costs

Following the publication of the Extra Costs Commission Progress Review in late 2016, we’ll be continuing to campaign to drive down the extra costs disabled people face and working with businesses in a range of sectors to look at ways they can provide a better service for their disabled customers.

In 2017 we expect government to announce a consultation on consumer and market policy. We’ll be continuing to campaign for markets to work better for disabled people, and for a cross-governmental approach to tackle the range of costs faced by disabled people.

We are also expecting the Government to publish their second independent review into Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which will include recommendations for reform, particularly around the assessment process. We want to see the assessment for PIP more accurately capture the range of extra costs disabled people face from higher energy bills to the need for specialised equipment. Given that disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on disability related costs it is vital that the value of PIP is protected.

In 2017 we want to see long-term funding for social care so that all disabled people who need support can get it, reforms announced that will support more disabled people in employment and to halve the disability employment gap and the protection of financial support for disabled people. We will be working closely with disabled people to continue to raise these issues with the Government.

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.

What we would like to see in the Autumn Statement 2016

This Wednesday Phillip Hammond will give his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor, the Government’s first major financial statement since the vote to leave the European Union.

At Scope we’ve been campaigning and raising awareness of the important issues that disabled people face ahead of Wednesday’s Autumn Statement announcement.

Autumn Statement

There has been lots of speculation about what he will include. He has decided not to go ahead with previous Chancellor George Osborne’s formal target to create a budget surplus by 2020 which will give him some flexibility on how much he spends.

Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister set out her commitment to creating a country that ‘works for everyone’ and ‘allowing people to go as far as their talents will take them.’ A recent common theme has been a focus on those ‘just about managing.’ But what does this mean for disabled people and what are Scope been calling for?

Last week we saw passionate speeches from all parties about the need to rethink the implementation of forthcoming reductions in financial support to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), at the beginning of the month the Government launched its consultation to tackle the disability employment gap; and, last month we published research highlighting the crisis in social care for young disabled people.

Taken together, there are many disabled people who are ‘just about managing’.

Our Extra Costs work has highlighted life costs more if you’re disabled. £550 a month more. From the need to purchase appliances and equipment, through to spending more on energy. And yet payments aimed at alleviating these – such as Personal Independence Payments (PIP) – often fall short of enabling disabled people to meet extra costs, leaving many turning to credit cards and payday loans to help with everyday living.

Ahead of the Autumn Statement we think there are three key areas that need addressing.

Social Care

Social care has been at the top of the news agenda in the run up to the Autumn Statement with the Care Quality Commission, Local Government Association, Care and Support Alliance and even the Conservative Chair of the Health Select Committee saying the social care system is in desperate need of investment. Working age disabled adults represent nearly a third of social users.

We have long been calling for sustainable funding in social care. Reductions in funding to local government over the past six years mean the social care system is starting to crumble under extreme financial pressure. We have heard from disabled people who have had to sleep fully-clothed, in their wheelchairs. Scope research in 2015 found that 55 per cent of disabled people think that social care never supports their independence. And just last month we found young disabled adults’ futures are comprised by inadequate care and support.

Social care plays a vital role in allowing many disabled people to live independently, work and be part of their communities. That’s why urgent funding and a long-term funding settlement are needed.

Extra Costs

On average, disabled people spend £550 a month on disability related costs and when we asked disabled people about their top priorities for the Autumn Statement, 70% said protecting disability benefits. We want to see PIP continue to be protected from any form of taxation or means-testing and the value of PIP protected.

The Government is expected to announce significant infrastructure investment and there will be potentially be announcements on digital infrastructure and energy.

We hope energy companies are required to think more about how they can support these consumers with their energy costs more effectively. With 25 per cent of disabled adults having never used the internet compared to 6 per cent of non-disabled adults, any new digital skills funding should include specific funding for disabled people.

Employment

The Government made a welcome commitment in their manifesto to halve the disability employment gap and a plan on how to achieve this in the Improving Lives consultation.

The Autumn Statement provides an opportunity for the Government to take steps to support disabled people to find, and stay in work.

Last week, MPs debated the changes to Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group due to begin in April 2017. MPs from across political parties have been urging the Government to think again about the changes. Half a million disabled people rely on ESA and we know they are already struggling to make ends meet. Over the last year we have been campaigning against this decision as we believe reducing disabled people’s financial support by £30 per week will not help the Government meet their commitment to halve the disability employment gap.

Read more about the Green Paper and how to get involved with the consultation.

Independent living – “I could be sat in my room for nearly 24 hours at a time”

Ricky is currently studying for a Masters degree in the Theory and Practice of Human Rights. In this blog he describes his experience of living independently while at university.

Before going to university, I knew very little about the operation of the social care system. I had attended residential schools for blind and visually impaired people since the age of 8, where specially trained staff were always on hand to assist if and when required. The prospect of not having someone upon whom I could always call was initially very daunting, but my desire to attend university outweighed such anxieties.

When I was planning to go to university, I opted to use a care agency for my support, as I felt this was a safer option than direct payments. After all, I was moving to a new town and didn’t know anyone in the area.

The idea of going to university for the first time without anyone to turn to for advice, let alone taking on the additional hassle of recruiting reliable support workers was very daunting.  Agency staff, in theory at least, would be vetted and experienced and it would be the agency’s responsibility to ensure that I always had the support I needed.

Theory and reality can be very different

Sadly, as is so often the case in life, theory and reality can be very different.  On several occasions, new staff would turn up at my door without me being given prior warning, something which is especially confusing for someone who can’t see.

The agency would often send staff at the incorrect time, inform them that my shifts were shorter than was actually the case, and would even tell me regularly that they weren’t sure if they had any staff members who could visit me on a given day, which made me feel more anxious than words can describe, given that my family lived in Ipswich, 125 miles away.

On one occasion, I was told the agency had no staff who could come and visit me that day.  When I asked the agency what they expected me to do for food, I was simply told that I would have to make the best of things and that I would be fed the following day!

Half-way through my second year at university, I decided to take the plunge and switch to direct payments. The direct payments system is not plain sailing by any means. It is a constant juggling act trying to ensure that all staff have sufficient hours to keep them happy in the job and there is no guarantee that suitable applicants will respond to adverts.

Direct payments

Nevertheless, direct payments have given me much more flexibility and I have been able to recruit many staff with whom I have a lot in common, so these people are not only my carers but also great friends. A direct payment support service supports me with logistical issues, such as ensuring correct taxation, National Insurance contributions, and pay slips for my staff.

Until recently, I had no more than 22 hours of support while at university and around half this while living at home. This support met my basic needs, but meant that on days when I had no classes at university I could be sat in my room for nearly 24 hours at a time. I therefore had very little social interaction during term-time. This, combined with the problems I had with my previous support arrangements, took its toll upon my mental health.

However, I have recently secured an increase in my hours to 41.5 per week.  As a result of this, I am confident that the forthcoming academic year will allow me to be even more independent and have an even more fulfilling university experience.

Find out more about young disabled people’s experiences of living independently. Read our new research report, Leading my life my way.

“I have always strived to be as independent as possible, but it hasn’t always been straightforward”

Becca runs a self-directed group for disabled young people moving into adult services in Ipswich called Progression Sessions. In this blog Becca describes her experience of independent living.

I have always strived to be as independent as possible, but it hasn’t always been straightforward. This became obvious when I finished sixth form and began to look for work. I had chosen not to go to university, because the idea of spending another 3 years listening to lectures and writing long essays had no appeal to me at all. Looking back, I was very naive in thinking it would be quick and easy.

For three years I had to visit the job centre every other week, relay to them what I had been doing to look for work, and was then sent off on my way.

Was I ever going to find a job?

Eventually, I was put on the Work Programme, which involved the same sort of treatment, with a few extra training courses to attend. I went to many interviews, but nothing ever came from them, and I was starting to get anxious. Was I ever going to find a job? What was wrong with me? How was I going to change? Then there was my worst fear: what if my disability was the problem?

To keep busy (and build up my CV), I volunteered at charity shops and a local media centre, where I wrote film reviews for their magazine. Meanwhile, my friends were at uni, seemingly having a great time partying and studying subjects they loved in new places outside of home. Of course I was immensely proud of them, but I couldn’t shake how isolated I felt in my little, unemployed bubble.

“It was such a relief to finally feel like I was being listened to and, most importantly, supported.”

In 2013 I volunteered for a local disability charity writing blog posts for their e-newsletter every week. The people I worked with were lovely, and I began to feel like I could be useful to society after all. One of my colleagues recognised that the Work Programme wasn’t helping me, and after all the paperwork was sorted out, I began receiving support from a local social enterprise. It was such a relief to finally feel like I was being listened to and, most importantly, supported.

I began a 12 month apprenticeship at the charity I had been volunteering at and undertook a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in business administration.

The need for better support

Through this experience, I recognised a need for better support for disabled people with independent living, particularly employment. I was also keen to know if anyone else felt as let down by career advisors as I did. Now that my friends were leaving university, it was clear I wasn’t alone in this feeling at all. It’s paramount that support services realise that the support needs of young disabled people can be very different to those of older social care users. However, if support services do not take this into account it can really affect our ability to live independently.

Find out more about young disabled people’s experiences of living independently. Read our new research report, Leading my life my way.

Young disabled people are not being supported to do the things they want to in their lives

Today we launch Leading my life my way, a new research report looking at young disabled people’s experiences of using support services to live independently.

We carried out this research because we wanted to find out what young disabled people expect from care and support services, what their experiences are and to what extent they are supported in different areas of their lives.

Our research shows that young disabled people don’t have sufficient control over their care and support plans and consequently in major decisions affecting their lives.

With this in mind, we designed our research to ensure young disabled people’s experiences and opinions were at the centre, through a series of face to face and telephone interviews as well as a wider survey of disabled people aged 17 to 30.

Young disabled people want to do all the things that every young adult does. But the social care system is letting them down and holding them back in many crucial areas of their life.  This is leading to social exclusion and affecting young disabled people’s wellbeing.

Support with personal care

While access to support is a significant barrier faced by young disabled people, our research found a much more widespread issue of being able to access to support in other areas like employment. Of respondents to our survey, 60 per cent said they aren’t getting the support they need to get into work.

Decision making

A quarter of our survey respondents said that they are either only ‘slightly’ or ‘not at all’ involved in making decisions relating to their care and support plan. This highlights a worrying lack of choice and control young disabled people have in making decisions about how they live their lives.

Information and advice

Our research also found that information and advice services could be improved to better serve the needs and expectations of young disabled people. While a fifth of our respondents would like to access information and advice on smartphone apps, only one per cent are currently able to.

The impact of poor quality information and advice was clear in interviews we conducted with respondents, with many instances of young disabled people not knowing how or where to access meaningful support in areas such as finding a job, managing support using direct payments and finding the right place to live.

Daily activities

A lack of support beyond daily living activities can result in a negative impact on young disabled people’s wellbeing.

Of the young disabled people we surveyed, a majority had experienced a significant setback in their lives such as not getting a college place or somewhere they wanted to live.

Text reads: Two thirds of respondents have had significant social care setbacks that have stopped them living indpendtly. 82 percenthad to wait at least six months for a solution

Of these people, 82 per cent had not had this resolved within six months, despite this being an obligation of local authorities under the Care Act. Such experiences are resulting in many young disabled people feeling that their lives are on hold while they struggle for resolution in specific areas of their lives.

Our research provides evidence that many young disabled people are not being supported to do the things they want to in their lives.

This is a denial of opportunity resulting in many young disabled people feeling they are being left behind while non-disabled friends and relatives leave home, progress in work, continue in education, play an active role in their communities and develop relationships. If we don’t get social care support right then the huge amount of potential young disabled people have in these areas could be wasted.

The Government needs to look beyond funding support for the ‘basics’ in social care and ensure young disabled people are supported to live independently in all areas of their lives.

Read more about our work to improve social care on our website.

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. 

It took me 30 years to make myself heard – World Voice Day

For World Voice Day we’re reposting this guest blog by Mandy, from Hereford. For the first 30 years of Mandy’s life, staff caring for her thought she had no awareness of the outside world. When someone finally realised how much she understood, they helped her get a communication device and Mandy was finally able make her voice heard. 

I was born in Warwickshire in 1965. I have cerebral palsy and use a motorised wheelchair, as well as a communication device which I operate with the back of my hand.

I did not get this device until I was 30 years old. Until then, I had no way of communicating except with my eyes and facial expressions.

Mandy at home, with photos of friends and family on the wall behind her
Mandy at home, with photos of friends and family on the wall behind her

Decisions made for me

I went to boarding school and then to a residential college in Devon. This would not have been my first choice, but the decision was made by the teachers from the school. I would much rather have lived closer to my family, but I was not given this option.

Then I moved into a residential home in Essex, 150 miles from home. It was a big home with 30 people in it, and only five support workers.

I used to get very angry and frustrated, because no one ever asked me what I wanted.

The staff and other professionals did not realise how much I understood, so they did not spend any time with me and I was often not allowed to make my own decisions.

It left me wondering – why? I could see other people making their own decisions. Yet I could not, just because people didn’t take the time to get to know me and understand my needs and wishes.

Finally getting a voice

In the late 1980s I moved to Hereford to live in a shared house run by Scope. I had my own room, but shared the house with a number of other people whom I had not chosen to live with.

A support worker noticed how much I understood, and helped me get a communication device. I mastered its use quite quickly, and could communicate properly for what felt like the first time.

This is where I began to feel a turning point in my life. Imagine what it was like – having a voice after all those years.

I contacted social workers, and with the help of my family and key worker, I started to make my case for living in my own home.

I had to work very hard at making people realise that it would be possible – that I would be able to cope with a more independent lifestyle where I could be in charge of my own life.

Mandy in her garden in Hereford
Mandy in her garden in Hereford

My own home

I got involved with Hereford Services for Independent Living (SIL). With their help and that of my social worker, Maggie, I claimed the allowances I needed to help pay for rent and 24-hour care.

I was very fortunate to get a fully accessible bungalow, and in August 2001, I moved into my own home. Now I really began to feel my confidence grow, and I gained more strength to make my own decisions and speak out. I built up a team of personal assistants by advertising, recruiting and interviewing. SIL supports me to arrange my finances as an employer and helps me sort out relief cover.

My support workers work a 24-hour shift, sleeping in my spare room overnight. This means I can organise my day however I choose without having to work around shift changeovers.

I recently completed a college course, and have also taken a creative writing class and written poetry. I have an active social life and often visit friends.

At this stage of my life, I feel more confident, decisive and stronger than I ever have before.

Scope’s hopes for the 2016 Budget

Wednesday’s Budget will be George Osborne’s fifth set piece financial statement in the last 16 months. In this blog we look at the three key issues we hope the government will address: PIP and extra costs, disability employment, and social care.

A few weeks ago, the Chancellor said the UK economy is smaller than expected this year. On the Andrew Marr show he confirmed that he is looking to find additional savings equivalent to 50p in every £100 the government spends.

In the same interview the Chancellor also defended the Government’s decision to introduce new restrictions to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment, aimed at saving £1.2bn.

It is against this backdrop that the Chancellor will make his statement.

We will be looking closely at what the Budget will mean for disabled people in three key areas.

PIP and Extra costs

Last week – just days before the Budget – the Government announced new restrictions to the PIP assessment. These are expected to impact upon 640,000 people and the Government estimates that it will save £1.2bn.

This announcement was the result of a Government consultation which looked at how disabled people are awarded PIP for aids and appliances. Scope research shows that life costs more if you are disabled. Disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on disability related costs.

We’ve expressed our concern about the impact that these changes will have on disabled people who rely on PIP to help meet the extra costs of disability.

At the same time, the Government announced it is considering the case for long term reform of disability benefits and services.
We will be looking closely at what the Chancellor has to say about these plans. Any reforms must guarantee disabled people the support they need to live their lives.

We will also be looking for the Chancellor to take action to drive down the extra costs disabled people face. This was the focus of the Extra Costs Commission, an independent inquiry facilitated by Scope that reported last year.

In the run up to the one year anniversary of the ECC final report in June, we hope the Chancellor will be able to take forward ECC recommendations in his statement.

Disability employment

In the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in November last year, he announced that 2016 would see a new ‘White Paper’ focused on how to support more disabled people into work and fulfill the Government’s commitment to halve the disability employment gap.

There is even greater pressure on the Government to deliver this since the Welfare Reform and Work Bill has all but completed its passage through Parliament, introducing a £30 per week cut in the rate of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) paid to disabled people who are in the Work Related Activity Group from April 2017.

Whilst the White Paper has yet to be published, he could be expected to give some further detail on how the £100 million fund for disability employment support (announced in the Chancellor’s last Budget) will be spent. We will also be watching for any more detail on the new Work and Health Programme, which is to be targeted at supporting disabled people to find work.

We will be looking to see if the Chancellor will set out how these funds will be effectively used and joined up to get disabled job seekers into work.

Social care

Social care was rightly a major area of focus for the Chancellor in his CSR statement. A third of social care users are working age disabled people, and they account for around half the social care budget. Social care has a vital role to play in enabling working age disabled people to live independently.

In the run up to the CSR, Scope published research on disabled people’s experiences of social care. Only 18 per cent of social care users said services consistently support them to live as independently as possible. 55 per cent said social care never supports their independence.

The Chancellor’s CSR announcements of a council tax precept that councils can charge to fund social care, and expansion of the Government’s Better Care Fund – to create better integration between health and social care, are therefore welcome. But, it is vital that the impact of this additional funding is properly monitored to see that the needs of working age disabled people are being met.

We will be live tweeting during the Chancellor’s statement, and look out for a further blog post on what is announced on Wednesday. 

“I get one bath a week, and I often sleep in my clothes” – Rebecca’s story

Guest post by Rebecca, who has ME and is a wheelchair user. She has lost her entitlement to social care, and now gets no support at all. Here she explains how it has affected her life.

Long hours stretch out in front of me. There’s nothing to fill my time. I cannot get out of the house. I may go many days without seeing anyone.

It’s a struggle even to have a drink; I certainly can’t get to the loo on time. I can only eat things which come straight from a packet.

If I ask for help to do something that isn’t directly about caring for my physical needs, I’m told it’s not possible. No one asks if I’m happy, or if I’d like a social life.

This is the situation I have faced ever since my care package was taken from me.

Losing my social care

I used to receive an hour of care a day where I’d get help with a hot meal, basic housework and a bath.

But when I was reassessed, this care was removed completely. One of the reasons I was given for this was that I was ‘able to use a computer’.

I was told: ‘If we gave help to everyone who just needed a bit of help with their housework, we’d have to give it to everyone.’

But it’s a lot more than just housework. Without social care, I lose the ability to do the things which make me happy, and end up spending all my energy on survival.

Rebecca outside in her wheelchair, holding her dog

How it affects me

I have volunteer carers now who come in to help me when they aren’t working. I get maybe one bath a week, and hot meals four days out of seven.

I often have to sleep in my clothes. I don’t eat properly, which means my medications are disrupted as some must be taken with food.

I was prescribed hydrotherapy about 10 years ago but I have never yet been able to attend, as I have no carer to take me, push my wheelchair, help me undress and dress again.

I’m forced to wipe myself down with baby wipes rather than have a bath, because it’s not safe to bathe myself.

I choose to be happy

I didn’t choose this life, but I still choose to be happy. My cooking and loving and care-giving (which once defined me as a proud and happy wife and mother) have had to be set aside.

But my joys are of lying in my bed looking out at the riot of summer turning to autumn in the countryside I love.

My joys are my warm dog snuggled against me under the blanket, or the total trust and love of the parrot I adopted climbing on my arm, asking for his head to be scratched.

It is not an easy life-lesson to learn that no matter what happens, I can still choose to be happy. I just need more direct care, more stability, less financial uncertainty and a lot less stress.

We’re calling on the government to provide more social care funding for people like Rebecca. Find out more, or tweet us using the hashtag #carecrisis.