What does Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Spending Review mean for the disabled community?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has today (25 November) unveiled his Spending Review, determining how much is to be spent on public services and the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.

The government is in the process of announcing how much money it is expected to spend on hospitals, schools and other public services in the next financial year, starting from April 2021 to March 2022.

REVIEW

COVID-19 and the on-going pandemic has made a significant impact on the economy, with the Chancellor already detailing an expected rise of unemployment to 2.6million by the second quarter of 2021 – a real concern for the disabled community, with many people already unable to find paid work due to their disability.

Affected by the cost of borrowing due to the pandemic, it has been revealed that the economy is expected to contract by 11.3 per cent, grow by 5.5 per cent next year and 6.6 per cent in 2022.

In terms of overseas spending, the government is set to cut spending by 0.5 per cent of national income; there doesn’t include any tax change; with only 37p granted per week over £20 for those on legacy benefits.

RESPONSE

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a network of over 100 organisations, including the MS Society, Z2K, Disability Rights UK and Inclusion London, have released a comment on the Chancellor’s Spending Review 2020. 

“When the pandemic hit the Government rightly recognised the need for Universal Credit claimants to be given an extra £20 to help them survive,” says Anastasia Berry, Policy Manager at the MS Society and Policy Co-Chair of the DBC. 

“But, those on legacy benefits, like Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseekers Allowance, were disgracefully refused the same financial lifeline. 

“Instead, for eight months around two million disabled people have been discriminated against, leaving them struggling to eat a cooked meal a day, pay to heat their homes and get vital medical treatment,” continues Anastasia.

“Despite multiple letters and a 119,000-signature-strong petition sent to the Chancellor to call for a £20 a week-increase, today’s spending review was another example of the government refusing to acknowledge the financial challenges these disabled people are facing as a result of this pandemic. Granting them an additional 37p – in line with inflation – has left us lost for words.”

Along with the Consortium, other disability organisations have responded to the Chancellor’s announcement.

Edel Harris, chief executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “We are bitterly disappointed for people with a learning disability and their carers. They will continue to be left without support at a time when they need it most. They are at breaking point and can only endure this nightmare for a little bit longer if there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

“Care workers, supporting people with a learning disability and all those others carrying out a difficult and vital role in the national response to coronavirus, deserve way more than this – they have risked their lives to keep people safe and well during this pandemic. We applauded them in the spring and now we have kicked them in the teeth with a paltry increase to the national living wage, when what they really deserve is a pay increase in line with their NHS counterparts.

“Will the extra funding announced today even cover the costs of the increase in national minimum wage, let alone all the other additional costs being incurred by the social care sector at this most difficult of times?

“But the Government seems to be waiting for the roof to fall in before repairing the leak. We needed emergency funding now and pinned our hopes on the Chancellor’s statement today. A bold plan for social care reform alongside long-term funding for a sustainable future is critical– continuing to kick the can down the road just isn’t good enough.”

EMPLOYMENT

Diane Lightfoot, CEO, Business Disability Forum says: “We welcome the job support measures announced, today, to help the long term unemployed and young people to find work. 

“But, we ask the Chancellor to clarify how much additional support will be made available for disabled job seekers. 

“Disabled people are far less likely to be in paid employment than their non-disabled peers – even before the pandemic. And research from Citizens Advice shows that disabled people are at far greater risk of redundancy.

“Support for disabled job seekers needs to be tailored and address the very specific barriers which many disabled candidates experience, from inaccessible recruitment processes to a lack of line manager awareness. 

“We also need to see an increase in the numbers of Job Centre staff with experience in supporting disabled people to find employment and up-to-date training on the skills that employers are currently seeking. 

“We would also urge the Government to make better use of existing schemes, such as Access to Work. The scheme can provide vital support for disabled people in securing employment, but many employers tell us they are reluctant to use the scheme because it is inflexible and difficult to engage with. The Government must also review the current Access to Work cap which disproportionately disadvantages those who rely on human support to carry out a role.

“The Chancellor committed today to giving everyone a chance to meet their potential. Disabled job seekers need some reassurance that that promise also applies to them.”

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