Government rejects calls for cost of living £650 to be given to all on disability benefits
The government has rejected calls to extend the £650 one-off cost of living payment to people on disability benefits as well as people on means tested benefits.
Around six million people who receive disability benefits will get a one-off payment of £150 by the end of September, while those also in receipt of a means-tested benefit will receive the additional £650 payment which will come in two instalments.
The payment was just one part of a raft of support measures put in place by the former chancellor Rishi Sunak to help ease the cost-of-living crisis and its long-term effects upon families and the Disabled community. However, many campaigners were quick to respond to the announcements and demand that the measures put in place were re-structured to ensure every Disabled person and carer was in receipt of the £650 payment regardless of benefit status.
Disability campaigner Abigail Broomfield launched a Parliamentary petition which received over 18,000 signatures, which warranted a government response.
The Department for Work and Pensions said: “The Government recognises the pressures people are facing with the cost of living. That is why it is providing over £15bn in targeted support for those with the greatest need. This brings the total package of Cost-of-Living support to £37bn this year. The Government recognises that Disabled people face extra costs which is why six million Disabled people who are in receipt of a qualifying disability benefit will receive a one-off Disability Cost-of-Living Payment worth £150. Households will receive a payment for each eligible Disabled person.”
Responding to the decision, Abigail Broomfield said: “The DWP response said the £650 payment will help approximately 60% of carers claiming carers allowance. That still means 520,000 are going to be getting no support at all.”
If you are unsure of whether you qualify for the cost of living payment, you can check the Government guidance.
PA shortage causing hardship for Disabled people
A new survey by TLAP (Think Local, Act Personal) and the Local Government Association has highlighted the difficulties many Disabled people face in hiring a Personal Assistant (PA) to help with daily living tasks.
Around 70,000 Disabled people employ a PA in the UK.
The survey results found that PA recruitment has got harder, both in terms of a shortage of applicants and their suitability for the work. Low pay, poor terms and conditions, and restrictions on what people can pay are the primary drivers for this, alongside the challenges of the Covid pandemic.
One respondent said about their PA: “I worry about them leaving, worry about paying them enough so they don’t leave, trying not to do anything that may get their back up, so they leave.”
77% of people who needed to recruit a PA had found it more difficult and two thirds said people were taking jobs with better pay rather than PA jobs. Another finding showed that 59% of those surveyed think it’s harder to find PAs with the right skills, values, or training, prompting Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman on the Local Government Association Community Wellbeing Board to say: “It’s worrying to hear about the struggle that many who draw on care have recruiting and retaining personal assistants and it highlights the continued issue all areas of social care currently have with finding and keeping staff.”
The full survey findings can be read here.
Disabled passenger service improves – ORR report
The Government’s Office of Rail and Road’s (ORR) consumer report shows train and station operators have made improvements to their services for Disabled passengers, as set out in ORR’s Accessible Travel Policy guidance.
All train operators must now accept bookings for assisted travel at two hours’ notice, a requirement introduced by ORR to reduce the notice period from 24 hours down to two hours over the last two years.
Support for this, and other recommendations, including website accessibility found that more still needs to be done, particularly on the quality of station access information, particularly for customers that use screen-readers and other assistive technology.
DR UK Rail Policy Adviser Stephen Brookes said: “We welcome these improvements, but it is clear that more still needs to be done, particularly on the quality of station access information for customers that use screen-readers and other assistive technology.
“Overall satisfaction with the Passenger Assist service increased to 87% this year.
“However there are some major areas which still need improvement, particularly in reducing the number of passengers who did not receive all of the assistance that they booked, those not being met by staff at the station and the time it takes to book via telephone.
“DR UK will be pressing train and station operators on areas of concern to secure improvements and help improve confidence for passengers using the service.”
In the past year, all train operators have also agreed to new delay compensation standards, making the process for submitting a claim clearer and simpler by providing passengers with clear information both before and during their journey about their entitlements to compensation when there are delays, improve how they process claims for compensation for train delays, and publish data on how well they are meeting these obligations.
Stephen said: “The industry needs to work more closely by holding train and station operators to account including on the quality of their passenger information, the services they provide for Disabled passengers and how they manage delay compensation claims.”
DR UK voices railway ticket office closure fears to Minister
DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick has written to the Rail Minister Wendy Morton to state deep concerns over plans which could lead to every train ticket office in England being shut down. It would leave passengers needing to buy their tickets online, while it is known that one in every eight tickets is still bought over the counter, in the main by Disabled people and those over the age of 65 who do not have internet access.
DR UK Rail Policy Adviser Stephen Brookes said: “Many Disabled people cannot access smartphones or live in a place with unreliable broadband and have relied on buying tickets face-to-face. What are they expected to do if everything goes online?
“It is the ability to get wide help and information on rail journeys at these offices which is crucial for those who need additional support. The offices also support those who having a range of hidden, sensory or learning disabilities are not able to use contactless, mobile smart ticket or station vending machines.”
In the ongoing work DR UK is undertaking with the rail industry, including being part of the Great British Rail transition access panel, we will be pressing at the very least for all closures to have a full impact assessment, rather than for an arbitrary cost reduction, which will create increased barriers for many Disabled people and their ability to travel by rail.