The Disability Benefits Consortium and Disabled People Against Cuts have published an open letter to the Government, requesting that they extend the consultation period to a recently published Health and Disability green paper by six weeks.
Green papers are documents that allow people inside and outside of Parliament to give their views on the Government’s policies. Anyone in the UK can take part in the process. There is usually a standard 12-week consultation period.
The open letter is available to read on the Disability Rights UK website. It is addressed to the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP. It states that three-quarters of people who have been through the benefit assessment process believe that the Government won’t implement any of the changes suggested during this consultation.
A recent report by The Social Market Foundation found that the benefit assessment system has caused trauma and distress to millions of people. Often disabled and ill people find themselves having to appeal and take part in reassessments even though they have lifelong conditions. This has resulted in people having to use food banks and other forms of emergency help. This has caused scepticism amongst people towards the consultation process.
The Green Paper
The Health and Disability green paper seeks to explore how the benefit system can help and support disabled people and people with health conditions. The results of this consultation could have far reaching consequences for the lives of many disabled people in the future, and it’s likely that many disabled people would like to take part. A 6-week extension would be a reasonable adjustment for the disabled people that wish to give their views.
The green paper consultation period started on the 20 July 2021 and is due to close on 11 Oct 2021. It will gather the views of participants via an online survey. It asks people to suggest improvements that could be made to disability benefits, assessments, services, and support.
The survey itself is fifty-two questions long and asks questions that need thoughtful and detailed answers. Typical questions include, ‘How could the current structure of benefits be improved so people can better manage changes in benefit entitlement?’ and ‘Is there anything about the current PIP activities and descriptors that should be changed?’
People who have direct experience of living with a disability or health problem would be the most qualified to answer these questions. An extension to the consultation period would therefore ensure that the Government could meet their objective, of improving the lives of disabled people, by providing them with the opportunity to take part.
Fifty Percent of People Living in Poverty in the UK are Disabled.
The Social Market Foundation report found that almost fifty percent of people in poverty in the UK are disabled, or live with someone who is disabled. Four in ten people, living in families that rely on disability benefits, are in poverty. The right changes to the benefits system could lift these people out of poverty and provide them with the funds they need to meet their basic needs.
According to the UN, a person is impoverished if they cannot afford basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter. Unlike non-disabled people, those with a disability might also need financial help to access their surroundings and to travel. For disabled people, being below the poverty line could mean they are confined to their homes.
Just Life, an organisation that works with vulnerable people living in temporary accommodation, noted in a report published in December 2020, that a substantial amount of people living in temporary accommodation are disabled. Often the accommodation isn’t suitable for them, with narrow passageways and flights of stairs. They are unable to leave their room or take care of their personal hygiene. These issues were exacerbated by the Covid-19 restrictions.
Access to basic needs like clothing, is also already problematic for some disabled people because they are unable to wear mass-produced clothing. Ableist bias in the clothing industry means people with non-standard body types can find themselves excluded from fashion. They may need to have clothes made for them which is more expensive. By donating to the Clothing Collective, you can help disabled people find the clothes they need.
Disabled People Have Lower Living Standards
Scope, a charity who works to provide equality for disabled people in the UK, says that life costs an extra £583 a month on average if you’re disabled. Some disabled people need to buy specialist equipment, specific food and use taxis. So, even if a disabled person were to earn the same as their non-disabled equivalent their living standards would still be lower.
This situation is made worse by the fact that those disabled people who do find work, earn 21% less than their non-disabled equivalent. Changes to services could improve the employment prospects of disabled people. During the Covid-19 pandemic the number of disabled people in work fell. A recent governmental report, published in April 2021, states that 52.3% of disabled people are now in employment, down from 54.1%. Non-disabled people have an 81.1% employment rate. Clearly, this imbalance needs to be addressed.
The gap between disabled and non-disabled people also extends to the housing market. Shelter states in a recent report about the housing crisis, that 54% of people with a significant disability (1.8m adults) do not have a safe or secure home, compared with 30% of people without a disability. This is particularly concerning when you factor in that disabled people are often more vulnerable. Shelter wants the government to build at least 90,000 good quality social homes a year to end this emergency.
Disabled people face an enormous number of difficulties and hardship in their lives. If enough people and organisations work together, solutions could be found to end these problems and eradicate poverty amongst the disabled.
To help those in need, you can make donations to the Clothing Collective here
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