A report on breaking the link between disability and poverty has urged Labour to replace DLA and PIP with a new benefit which meets the extra costs of living for disabled people.
Breaking the Link between Disability and Poverty, which has left activists disappointed at Labour’s failure to publicise its recommendations, says that disabled people are twice as likely as non-disabled people to experience material hardship which is defined as being unable to afford two or more items from a list that includes food, clothing, furniture, household appliances and a computer.
The report, drawn up by an independent taskforce of disabled people chaired by the campaigner Bert Massie and set up by Liam Byrne when he was shadow work and pensions secretary, said that disabled people face disability-specific costs like stair lifts, scooters, wheelchairs, specialist clothing and sign language interpretation, and the costs faced by everyone else but which are higher for disabled people who need to have the heating turned on for long periods or pay for specialist diets and accessible transport.
Neil Crowther, an expert in equality and human rights who is a member of the taskforce, said that 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 against the prospect of poverty.
He added: 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 development and implement, but we believe it a matter of social justice that as disabled people have borne so much of the spending cuts resulting from austerity, despite their pre-existing poverty and exclusion, that they should be priority beneficiaries of the proceeds of inclusive economic growth.”
In 28 recommendations covering employment and equality, the taskforce also calls for the work programme to be replaced by localised, personalised employment support that places disabled people and employers in the driving seat, more investment in the Access to Work scheme, and greater integration of employment support, health, social care and education to promote more inclusion for disabled people.
Meanwhile, on his blog personal blog, Crowther described Labour’s failure to publicise the launch of the taskforce’s report as ‘disappointing’. He said that the obvious inference was that Labour had no wish to promote discussion or engage with any of the recommendations in the report. He added that it was also ‘deeply disappointing’ that Labour had failed to produce an easy read version of the report for the benefit of people with learning disabilities.