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New Year's Message 2022

06 January 2022

After the past couple of years, it feels almost inappropriate to wish you all a happy new year. But there are two characteristics which mark out Disabled people: hope, and resilience. As such, we sincerely hope that the storm which has been weathered by Disabled people during the pandemic is going to blow less harshly this year. We hope that 2022 will be brighter, lighter, easier and happier than recent years for all of us.

But we are still expecting to have to fight a significant number of challenges in 2022. As we kick off the year, we are already working on a deep range of issues on behalf of Disabled people across the UK.

Living standards

Half of the seven million people living in poverty in the UK are either Disabled people or living in households with at least one Disabled person. 2022 is going to see greatly increased financial pressures on all households. Social housing rents are expected to increase, and fuel prices, for both homes and vehicles, are expected to rocket come the Spring. A doubling of energy prices and increasing food costs will force people into perilous financial situations.

Benefit levels and processes continue to be wholly inadequate. This year will see a White Paper on benefit reform, with past experience leading to great concerns for Disabled people about proposed changes.

Social care

Disabled people are experiencing cuts to care and support, difficulties in recruiting Personal Assistants and tens of thousands are being turned away with no care at all. The Social Care White Paper published in December 2021 lacked ambition and measures to improve care and support services. It is estimated that another £8 billion per year is needed to provide sufficient support for all those who need it.

Local Authority charges for care are increasing, leaving people with insufficient money to get by. The new cap on care costs, which benefits older wealthy home owners, doesn’t come into effect until October 2023.

This month, organisations are supporting amendments in the House of Lords, to try to stop Disabled people under 40 needing to pay care charges. This was a recommendation of the Dilnot Review.

Autistic people, people with learning disabilities and those experiencing mental distress continue to be locked up in hospitals rather than receiving appropriate support in the community. Putting a stop to this utterly inhumane treatment must be a top priority for Government for 2022.

Housing

The Government consultation on improving accessibility standards for new build housing closed in December 2020 and there has still been no announcement on any proposed changes.

Given the high proportion of inaccessible and unfit housing that exists, it is hard to understand why the Government is delaying taking such a simple measure. According to the National Disability Strategy, an announcement was due in December 2021.

There is also a delay in publishing regulations on Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for Disabled people unable to self-evacuate in the event of fire. The Grenfell Tower Inquiry made recommendations on PEEPs in October 2019 and the Government was due to publish regulations by October 2021.

Education

Disabled children and young people continue to struggle to get the additional support they need to learn and be fully included.

Where children are being made mentally ill by their school environments having a lack of adaptations and are school refusing, their parents and caregivers are being criminalised and prosecuted for truancy. Government must stop focussing on a one size fits all approach to education, and start to understand that different environments and learning styles are necessary for education to work for all.

Many Local Authorities and other education providers such as academy chains have yet to undertake an audit of their schools to understand how and why so many are still physically inaccessible to Disabled children, let alone starting to make the adjustments to premises that should form part of their planning duties.

Like social care, Local Authorities have wholly inadequate budgets. A much awaited Green Paper on Special Educational Needs and Disability is due in February/ March 2022.

Employment

The National Disability Strategy includes reviews of the Disability Confident Scheme, improvements to flexible working and a consultation on workforce monitoring. It remains to be seen whether any of these policy initiatives will result in more inclusive working environments.

We are also waiting to see if the commitments to improve the Access to Work Scheme as set out in the Green Paper on Health and Disability will deliver meaningful change, such as speedier support delivery and communication in a range of preferred formats.

Streets and transport

The shocking decision of York City Council to ban all Blue Badge parking from pedestrian streets must be challenged by us all.

Disabled people are citizens and we should not be barred from our own town centres.

With a high proportion of our railway stations continuing to be inaccessible, will the advent of Great British Railways change things? A consultation is currently underway.

Disability hate crime

Towards the end of 2021, the Law Commission recommended that disability hate crime be put on the same footing as racially motivated crime. The Government should have published its Hate Crime Plan in December 2021 but it has yet to emerge.

COVID public inquiry

Almost 60% of all COVID deaths were those of Disabled people. The Inquiry into the handling of COVID-19 starts this Spring and Disabled people’s voices must be at the heart of the inquiry. Disability organisations, including DR UK, will plan together to make this happen.

Climate change

The voice of Disabled people continues to be absent from discussions on climate change. The COP 26 final text made no mention of involving Disabled people even though we are disproportionately affected. This must change in 2022.

If there are more topics you feel should be added to our list, please let us know. Email enquiries@disabilityrightsuk.org.

If you would like to blog about specific matters of concern, please get in touch at media@disabilityrightsuk.org.

There is still so much to be done to bring about a change in how we live our lives as Disabled people; to bring about the social model of Disability across all sectors; and to be heard, as equals, with equity of experience. We are committed to working hard to make this happen.

We’re not called Disability Rights UK for nothing. We will continue to work with stakeholders within our movement, within local and national government, and within the private sector to champion our rights, and effect positive change for Disabled people across the UK.

Perhaps we need to wish you a different kind of new year – a strong, bold, tireless one.

Sincerely,

Kamran Mallick

CEO, Disability Rights UK