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Fulfilling Potential: Building a deeper understanding of disability in the UK

Disability Rights UK response to the publication of 'Fulfilling Potential: Building a deeper understanding of disability in the UK'

14 February 2013

Disability Rights UK welcomes this analysis which is a mine of information which must inform policy right across government. We as disabled people can also use it to influence change – locally and nationally.

It includes stark findings. To give a few examples:

  • A blight on young disabled people’s aspirations. At age 24 there is a massive 36% ‘employment gap’ between disabled and non-disabled people. And whilst 16year old disabled and non-disabled people have similar aspirations, by 26 disabled people’s aspirations are significantly lower
  • Lower levels of social participation. Disabled people are more likely to be single than non-disabled people (is it a choice?). Disabled people (and especially young disabled people) are more likely to experience crime, and to fear crime, than non-disabled people
  • Under-estimating disabled people’s potential. The most commonly reported type of employment discrimination is ‘being given fewer responsibilities than wanted’; and disabled people are less likely than non-disabled people to have senior jobs.
  • The impact of the disability poverty gap.  Disabled people are not just more likely to live in poverty – but more likely to report the burden of loan repayments, less likely to be able to heat a child’s room, less likely to afford fruit and vegetables: the figures show the human cost of disability poverty

There are also some glimmers of hope:

  • Improved qualifications. The qualifications gap at level 3 (A level equivalent) between disabled and non-disabled 19 year olds has gone down by 10% in 10 years [The gap is now 11% - if it continued to fall by 1% a year it could in theory go down to 0 in 11 years – here’s hoping]
  • Improved access to transport, goods and services. The proportion of disabled people reporting problems accessing transport, and goods and services, has gone down.

And there are significant implications for policy, for instance:

  • What have we ‘done right’ to improve young disabled people’s qualifications levels – and how can we turn that into better employment prospects for young disabled people?
  • The figures show that to date few disabled people have moved from ‘inactive’ benefits (like incapacity benefit or employment and support allowance) into employment. If that trend continues – if few people  move from these benefits into employment – then what exactly is the point of the expensive and distressing ‘work capability assessments’ to find out which individuals on those benefits can work? Would the money not be better spent on support with skills, employment and independent living that evidence suggests would have better results?
  • The figures show that Disability Living Allowance does offer some protection from poverty (poverty rates are higher if DLA is excluded from analysis of income). We know that about half a million people currently claiming DLA will lose out under the new Personal Independence Payment. What impact will that have on the ‘poverty gap’ between disabled and non-disabled people? We fear the answer will be much higher human cost of poverty even than now.

And for us all, for instance:

  • Large numbers of people move in and out of the experience of impairment. And only 2-3% of disabled people are born with their impairment. As disability organisations we need to reach out to people who acquire impairments at different times in their lives and ensure they have really good information on rights.   

Tracking these figures over time will be vital. Disability Rights UK campaigns for the freedom to live independently and the opportunity to live free of poverty. There is a long way to go – and these figure will be vital to tracking how we are doing.  

Outcomes on their own do not say enough, we also need to look at how we get to the outcomes. Over and over again research shows that giving us more control over our lives and individualised support delivers far better results. We call on the Government to take note of the evidence that exist on what works well and what doesn’t – and why