Disability Rights UK Newsletter

Disability employment gap persists despite new statistics

The government has announced that over one million more Disabled people are in employment compared to five years ago according to the latest ONS (Office for National Statistics) data released on Tuesday 17 May.

The latest figures show the number of Disabled people in employment has increased by 1.3 million since 2017, delivering on a government goal to see one million more in work by 2027.

However, Kim Hoque from Disability@Work said: “While Ministers may consider reaching their goal of getting an additional one million Disabled people into work as worthy of celebration, this needs to be kept in perspective, given the DWP’s own analysis shows that while the number of Disabled people in work has increased, so has the number of non-disabled people. As such, Disabled people’s employment prospects, in relative terms, have not improved. Reflecting this, the disability employment gap, which indicates the difference in the percentage of Disabled and non-disabled working of age people who are in work, is no smaller now than it was in mid-2019.”

People with learning disabilities in ‘mental health crisis’ – Mencap

New research by the learning disability charity Mencap reveals that people with a learning disability in the UK are facing a mental health crisis in the wake of the pandemic. 88% of families and carers surveyed said their loved one was always or very often felt sad, and 82% felt lonely due to rarely being able to leave their homes. Nearly a third (32%) were struggling with mental health issues, including suffering from low mood and low self-esteem. But 27% of those experiencing mental health problems still don’t know where they can go for support – an issue made worse by the fact that many people in society still wrongly believe that learning disability itself is a mental health condition.

Alongside the survey findings, the charity has also published a new report (or read the easy read report here) funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). People with a learning disability who were interviewed for the report described their lives as a “prison,” with limited social contact causing them to feel suicidal.

As part of a new mental health campaign called ‘Listen To Us’, Mencap asked 580 family members and carers of people with a learning disability across the UK about their loved one’s experiences of mental health. While people with a learning disability have often struggled with social inclusion and finding opportunities to be socially active, the pandemic left many struggling with increased periods of loneliness, fear and anxiety as they were advised to stay at home and shield from the virus.

Post-pandemic, over one in ten say they leave the house just once a week or less with many citing cuts to social care support as being a barrier to getting out.

More than half a million are waiting for social care

New survey findings from ADASS (Association of Directors of Adult Social Services) show that more than half a million people are now waiting for an adult social care assessment, for care or a direct payment to begin or for a review of their care.  The latest data suggests:

·  Over six in ten councils say they are having to prioritise assessments and are only able to respond to people where abuse or neglect is highlighted, for hospital discharge or after a temporary period of residential care to support recovery and reablement.

·  506,131 people were waiting for assessments, reviews, and/or care support to begin.

·  There has been a 16% increase in the number of hours of home care that have been delivered since Spring 2021, but that dipped from a high of over 41m hours in Autumn 2021 in the first quarter of this year as staff vacancies and sickness impacted.

·  Almost 170,000 hours a week of home care could not be delivered because of a shortage of care workers during the first three months of 2022. That is a dramatic seven-fold increase since Spring 2021.

This new evidence shows that levels of unmet, undermet or wrongly met needs are increasing, and the situation is getting worse. The growing numbers of people needing care and the increasing complexity of their needs are far outstripping the capacity to meet them.

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “Despite two white papers on social care, and a new Health and Care Act, social care remains in crisis with Disabled people being left high and dry, without support. The Government continues to refuse to take the radical steps needed to fund and deliver a care service fit for purpose.”

DR UK challenges Rachel Maclean MP’s cost of living comments on LBC

On Monday the Minister for Safeguarding suggested that people struggling with the cost of living crisis could simply take on more hours or move to a better paying job.

Bethany Bale, DR UK Policy and Campaigns Officer, was interviewed on Eddie Mair’s LBC radio show and challenged the Minister’s comments. She said: “The Minister’s comments are completely out of touch with the reality that Disabled people are facing every single day. It also pushes this idea that living in poverty is a choice” whilst also highlighting the additional barriers that Disabled people face when it comes to employment – including the additional costs of living with a disability, and the disproportionate levels of Disabled people being pushed into poverty.

A clip from the video interview can be found on twitter. The full radio interview can be listened to on LBC catch up, at around 25 minutes in on Eddie Mair’s 16 May show.

Disability Poverty Campaign Group update

Last month saw the formation of the Disability Poverty Campaign Group (DPCG), a coalition of countrywide Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), charities, and allies campaigning against the cost of living issues forcing Disabled people into poverty.

The DPCG is led by DR UK and Inclusion London and launched with a focus on pushing for an above inflation benefit rise to help Disabled people struggling with food and energy increases.

The Government has recently changed the criteria for the Warm Home Discount and as a result it is estimated that 290,000 people who are in receipt of disability benefits will no longer be eligible for the scheme to help offset rising fuel costs. At a time when Disabled people are facing real-term cuts to benefits and are seeing energy prices more than double, it’s critical that the Government reverses this decision and begins to assess the impact fuel poverty is having.

In response to the growing crisis in living standards, and to encourage MPs to take action, the DPCG has drafted a template letter that people can send to their MPs. The letter can be found at the Action Network website.

If you are a representative of a local or national DPO group, or charity, and are interested in getting involved with the DPCG, email dan.white@disabilityrightsuk.org.

Government fails to implement PEEPs for high rise fire safety

The Government has made a series of announcements on fire reform and fire safety.

A press release from the government said: “We are… publishing the Government response to last summer’s PEEPs consultation. On reading the document, you will see that the consultation identified substantial difficulties in mandating PEEPs in high-rise residential buildings, especially around practicality, proportionality and safety. However, we remain determined to deliver proposals to enhance the safety of residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised. That is why we have developed an alternative package of initiatives, building on the information garnered from the previous consultation, to deliver against the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 recommendations that relate to PEEPs and evacuation plans.”

DR UK’s Head of Policy Fazilet Hadi said: “The Government’s decision to reject the need for Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for Disabled people who can’t self-evacuate from high rise buildings is utterly reprehensible and shows that it does not consider our lives to have equal value with non-disabled people. There are no substantial difficulties in mandating PEEPs. There is just a strong lack of willing.

“The recommendation that PEEPs be put in place was made by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry in October 2019,  following evidence from fire safety experts. Almost 40% of the Disabled residents living in the Tower died in the fire, and it is highly likely that their lives could have been saved had PEEPs been in place.

“The Fire Safety Order 2005 makes no distinction in respect of Disabled people: we all need to be safe in the event of fire. The Equality Act 2010 requires reasonable adjustments to be made for Disabled people. The Government’s decision is a dereliction of its duties under the law and fails to uphold our human rights”.