The recent report published by the Fabians, ‘Measure for Measure’, argued that a broader, more sophisticated analysis of the economy should be used. Rather than relying on traditional economic success indicators – growth, inflation, and unemployment – the report argued for more focus on living standards.
This got me thinking about how disabled people would fare under such a measure.
In 2014, disabled people’s living standards are still being held back in a number of crucial ways. A new Scope report highlights the three areas that we think are the most important: the extra costs of being a disabled person; getting into work and the support to live independently.
There is a huge opportunity for Labour to flesh out a distinctive plan for growth which has disabled people at its heart, and that improves the lives of disabled people in these three areas.
There is a hefty financial penalty attached to being a disabled person. Disabled people face a range of extra costs from paying for home adaptations and disability equipment to taking taxis where public transport is inaccessible. This all adds up to what is essentially a premium on everyday living- amounting to an average of £550 a month.
Secondly, work. Ed Miliband has said that he wants Britain to ‘earn our way to a better standard of living’, but disabled people are being denied the opportunity to do so. The employment gap between disabled people and non-disabled people remaining stubbornly high at 30 per cent – that represents two million people.
This is not the fault of disabled people – disabled people can, and want to work. For example, a lack of flexibility and support in the work place contributes to the 300,000 disabled people who fall out of the labour market every year. And once unemployed, they are are twice as likely to become long term unemployed as they are to move back into work.
A commitment that a Labour government would get one million more disabled people into work would represent a huge statement in supporting disabled people to improve their standard of living.
Finally, the lives of disabled people could be vastly improved by enabling them to live independently – which can be all too difficult. In a Scope survey, nearly half the disabled adults we spoke to said the social care they receive does not enable them to take part in their community. Labour’s policy on whole person care – the integration of health and social care – has much potential. But going further to better integrate other services such as employment and housing could make the system work even better for disabled people.
Progress for disabled people in these three areas would lead to a real increase in living standards – whichever economic indicators are used.
Elliot Dunster is parliamentary manager at Scope.