What the Autumn Statement needs to do for disabled people
The charity Scope calls upon the Chancellor to not ignore the needs of UK's 12.9 million disabled people in tomorrow's Autumn Statement.
In his first Autumn Statement since his appointment, and the UK’s first since voting to leave the EU, all eyes will be on Philip Hammond this week as he outlines the financial strategy for how the government wants to grow the nation in a post-Brexit Britain.
What can we expect to see?
No one knows for certain what is likely to be announced this Wednesday, but a focus on the country’s finances as we leave the European Union and an emphasis on support for ‘just managing families’ are dominating the media agenda.
These words echo those of Theresa May in her first statement as Prime Minister, when she said: "If you're one of those families, if you're just managing, I want to address you directly."
For many disabled people and parents of disabled children the words “just managing” ring all too true.
Life costs more if you’re disabled. From expensive equipment to higher bills for essential services – such as energy, many are paying over the odds. On average, disabled people spend £550 a month on disability-related outgoings. Yet financial support payments such as PIP often don’t match the extra costs disable people face. As a result, disabled people on average have £108,000 few savings and assets and households containing a disabled person are twice as likely than those without to have unsecured debt totalling more than half their household income.
The Prime Minister also spoke about everyone having the opportunity to go as “far as their talents will take them”, yet we know that inadequate employment support means far too many face difficulties getting into and staying in work.
On top of this reductions to social care funding have left a system that is on the brink of collapse and thousands of disabled people without the essential support.
What do we want to see for disabled people in the Autumn Statement?
Tackling the extra costs that disabled people face
Specialist equipment, higher heating bills and replacing worn-out clothes are just some of the additional costs that disabled people have to fork out for. These extra costs can often be staggeringly high, undermining someone’s financial security and making it almost impossible to have any savings.
The personal independence payment offers a vital financial lifeline for many disabled people, helping them to cope with some of these extra costs and we ask that this remains protected in the Autumn Statement.
Bridging the disability employment gap
Time and time again, disabled people push hard to get into and remain in work. But the labour market is stacked against them and many continue to get knocked back. The recent Green Paper on disability, health and employment was a positive step towards tackling this.
Yet figures released just last week show that the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people has remained static at around 30 percentage points for the past decade. On top of this the government is proposing reductions in financial support to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Last week MPs debated the changes to Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group due to begin in April 2017.
Half a million disabled people rely on ESA, and we know they are already struggling to make ends meet. Reducing support by £30 per week is will not help the Government meet their commitment to halve the disability employment gap and we hope that the Chancellor uses the Autumn Statement to pause the proposed changes.
Supporting the crumbling social care system
Social care is essential to many disabled people who rely on it to get up, get dressed, and get out and to live independently. Without it, we know of disabled people who have had to sleep, fully-clothed, in their wheelchairs others who have gone 14 hours without access to a toilet, some forced to survive on one meal a day. 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’ future are comprised by inadequate care and support.
Reductions in funding to local government over the past six years have left a system on the brink of collapse. Earlier this month the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) revealed projected council overspends of almost £500m due to the deepening crisis in adult social care.
As the Government moves to further integrate health and social care systems to drive efficiencies particularly in the support provided to older people, it should also consider how public services work for disabled people.
It is a simple ask but one that will have a huge impact on the lives of so many people – we need to see the government sustainably fund social care so that working-age disabled people are able to access the support they need to live independently.
There are 12.9 million disabled people in the UK, and as he sets out his financial vision for the next six months the Chancellor has a duty to ensure that their needs are not ignored.