Weekly Poll – Disability Commissioner Bill: Costs

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 25 July 2022, we asked a question about the costs associated with establishing a Disability Commissioner.

Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect a policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.

Results

Question 1. Any new law can have a financial impact which would affect individuals, businesses, the public sector, or others. What financial impact do you think this Disability Commissioner could have if it became law?

  • A large increase in costs – 15% (6 respondents)
  • Some increase in costs – 46% (19 respondents)
  • No overall change in costs – 15% (6 respondents)
  • Some reduction in costs – 0% (0 respondents)
  • A large reduction in costs – 0% (0 respondents)
  • Unsure – 24% (10 respondents)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Disability Commissioner Bill

A consultation has been launched by Jeremy Balfour MSP on a draft Bill to establish a Disability Commissioner for Scotland. The purpose of the Disability Commissioner is to work independently from the Scottish government as a “voice for the disabled community”, and to monitor the policies that are introduced to support disabled people in Scotland.

Costs

There will be costs involved in setting up and running the Disability Commissioner Office. Different models for this proposed office may be possible and so the detailed assessment of likely costs would come at a later stage in the development of the Bill. To use the Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland Office as an example, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Budget Submissions for 2021 show an approved budget of £1.3million.

The costs associated with the provisions of this proposed Bill will fall largely upon the Scottish Parliament. There will also be additional costs incurred by the Scottish Parliament in relation to the appointment of the Commissioner, setting up a selection panel and providing administrative and other support throughout the process of the appointment.

Organisations

Respondents reflected on the financial impact of the Bill on organisations who may have to alter their practices resulting in some increased costs.

“I think that to start with the Disability Commissioner could result in increased costs to businesses due to adjustments required to law change.”

“Some businesses might be affected by having to implement any disability laws, but it does not mean that it would cost a lot of money. It is time that the Disability law was enforced.”

Some respondents believed that any increase in costs to businesses will be offset by the measures that are introduced to ensure that disabled people are included.

“There is likely to be some increase in costs as changes are implemented but hopefully this will be balanced by getting things right from the start so that there is less cost in retrofitting bad designs/planning etc.”

“Although the Commissioner will have a cost impact due to running costs, I would expect that the overall impact to be cost neutral. Ignoring disabled rights when drafting laws leads to numerous costs such as court cases; loss in productivity of disabled people; reworking laws and so forth. Getting it right at the start means that these costs are not incurred which should either result in zero cost or even some reduction in costs. Of course, measuring this is difficult if not impossible but “right first time” is a well-known principle.”

Disabled People

Respondents believed that the costs associated with the Disability Commissioner are justified in order to take meaningful action to address inequalities. Some respondents also believed that it will ultimately lead to reduced costs and more financial security for disabled people.

“This will be money well spent to address the inequalities faced by disabled people. I think it will also lead to better financial outcomes for disabled people. For example, increasing measures to reduce the disability pay gap so that disabled people are employed and earn a fair salary.”

“Disabled people spend more money than most people, we suffer due to the cost of living. If we have someone fighting for us, it will reduce the cost of things for disabled people. Help disabled people earlier, you save money in the long run, regardless of the initial cost.”

“£1.3m is 2 pence per week for each person with a disability in Scotland. If we are not worth 2p per week, I despair!”

Cost-effectiveness

Respondents commented on the measures that can be taken to ensure the Disability Commissioner is run cost-effectively.

“Sharing administrative resources could reduce the overall costs of the Commissioners – I imagine the administrative side of most of the commissioners would be similar and by interleaving campaigns it should be possible to balance workload between different departments and reduce overall cost.”

“Sharing offices and other resources may be the way ahead.”

“Learn from existing Commissioners and share resources/offices to help bring costs down.”

Conclusion

Respondents reflected on the financial impact of the Bill on organisations who may have to alter their practices resulting in increased costs. Some respondents believed that any initial rise in costs to organisations will be offset by increased engagement and custom with disabled people. Respondents believed that the costs associated with the Disability Commissioner are justified in order to take meaningful action to address inequalities. Some believed that it will ultimately lead to reduced costs and more financial security for disabled people in Scotland.