The Labour Party has commissioned, received – and buried – a superb and timely report into poverty and disability in the UK today. If they won’t publicise it, then we must!
One of the big social and policy challenges in Britain today is the persistent and complex link between disability and poverty – disabled people are more likely to live in poverty, but people living in poverty are also more likely to become disabled. Approximately one-fifth (19%) of the UK population is disabled or has a long term health condition. Disabled people are 30% less likely to be in paid work than non-disabled people but face very high disability-related costs. And this is all in spite of the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 (which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, ratified by the UK Government in 2009.
Against this background, last Summer Labour commissioned a Task Force to look at ways to break the link between disability and poverty, sending out a press release. All six members of the Task Force are supremely well-qualified, both personally and professionally, to bring together evidence, research and their own understanding of the complexity of disability and chronic ill-health to produce an outstanding report. Mindful of the economic constraints that will face whatever party forms a government in 2015, they tailored the report’s recommendations accordingly, although it is unrealistic to expect to tackle this issue effectively without any further investment at all. Using current expenditure more effectively is the priority.
Breaking the link between disability and poverty, was published on 24 April. There was no press release to accompany the publication of the report. Apparently a report commissioned by the shadow DWP team is now viewed as an unsolicited policy submission!
The Task Force emphasised to Labour how important it is for such a report to be available in accessible formats, so that disabled people can read it and discuss its contents. They even offered to arrange for the report to be translated into Easy Read on behalf of the Party, so the UK’s one million voters with learning disabilities could join the discussion. Astonishingly, this offer was rejected! Can Labour really afford to jeopardise the votes of a million people with learning disabilities? Or Britain’s 10.8 million disabled adults?
Anyway, enough of Labour’s bizarre and discourteous behaviour. What of the report itself? The Task Force have done a superb job, trying to balance the need for action and its inevitable costs against the economic constraints that will face the next Government. The report deserves proper consideration – by any and all politicians and their parties. Neil Crowther, one of the Task Force members, has summarised the report as follows:
“…Britain can and must invest public resources more effectively than at present to create the infrastructure of support that will enable disabled people to escape and remain resilient to poverty.
“This is especially so in these tough economic times when, despite public spending cuts, millions of pounds of public money is being wasted on poorly designed, ineffective and bureaucratic systems and approaches such as the Work Capability Assessment, the Work Programme and fragmented public services. Disabled people frequently face more red-tape than the average small business in securing the support just to lead lives everyone else takes for granted. This contributes to, rather than helps relieve poverty, undermining people’s life chances.
“So we call for reform of assessments which should focus on people’s interaction with the world around them, including in the labour market, rather than just at the functional impact of their impairment or health condition. We back the proposals of Disability Rights UK to replace the Work Programme with localised, personalised employment support that places disabled people and employers in the driving seat. We propose an uplift in investment in Access to Work given the clear returns to the Treasury of the scheme. We call for greater integration of employment support, health, social care and education around people in support of their participation. And we seek a re-commitment to and improvement of our approach to disability equality, including assessing the impact of policies, removing the costs of employment tribunals in discrimination cases and renewing the institutional support for disability equality including the EHRC and the ODI.
“We also explore how disability related extra costs of living might be reduced for example through national and local government using its buying power to reduce the costs of aids and equipment and through preventing benefits being swallowed up by social care charges.
“We conclude however that disability related poverty cannot be tackled without further investment in a disability costs benefit. This will take time to develop and implement, but we believe it a matter of social justice that as disabled people have borne so much of the ‘austerity’ spending cuts, despite pre-existing poverty and exclusion, that they should be priority beneficiaries of the proceeds of inclusive economic growth.”
But read the report for yourself! It deserves the attention of policy-makers of all parties and none. Share, share, share!
1 Bulloch S & Rogers C (2014) Better living, higher standards: improving the lives of disabled people by 2020, Scope policy report
2 Burchardt (2003) ‘Being and becoming: Social exclusion and the onset of disability’, ESRC Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion
3 Disability prevalence factsheet, Office for Disability Issues (updated January 2014)
4 Disability facts and figures, Office for Disability Issues
5 Brawn E (2014) Priced out: ending the financial penalty of disability by 2020, Scope policy report
6 Labour takes aim at disability poverty
7 Labour Party Poverty and Disability Taskforce Report Published
8 Actions speak louder than words – Labour publish Poverty & Disability taskforce report
9 Disability prevalence factsheet, Office for Disability Issues (updated January 2014)
10 The Labour Party commissioned Poverty & Disability Taskforce Report in a nutshell