Weekly Poll – National Disability Strategy

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 13 September 2021, we asked a question about the UK Government National Disability Strategy.

Results

Question 1. Do you think the actions that are featured in the National Disability Strategy will help to improve the lives of disabled people across the United Kingdom? 

  • YES – 49% (30 respondents)
  • NO – 51% (31 respondents)

Comments

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

Legislation

There was a mixed reaction from respondents as to whether the National Disability Strategy will help to improve the lives of disabled people across the United Kingdom. Respondents reflected on how aspects of the strategy are covered by existing policies and legislation.

“A large number of elements in this strategy should already be in place as part of various laws that already exist. Simply issuing yet another strategy saying the same things as other strategies over the last 25 years isn’t going to magically fix the lives of disabled people”

“Problems exist with current policies; these should be tackled first before sitting around a table brainstorming ideas.”

“The Government need to pull their finger out and make better laws for disabled people. We are forgotten about, and it seems that we are going backwards instead of forward.”

“It does not tackle the current discrimination faced by disabled people, which is so pervasive and debilitating.”

Employment

Respondents reflected on the various actions that are featured in the National Disability Strategy. There was recognition that more support needs to be in place to ensure disabled people can find suitable employment, which can help to reduce the disability employment gap.

“Employment is so important for health and wellbeing and anyway in which access to full or part-time employment can be assisted is vital.”

“There needs to be assurance that those with ill health and disabilities would not be forced into work, unless they are ready, as it might cause a relapse in condition and therefore be counterproductive.”

“I have applied for part-time jobs under the Disability Confident scheme for a guaranteed interview if the minimum criteria are met. All jobs were with leading employers, non-skilled and did not require qualifications. Yet I, with professional qualifications and post graduate education did not meet the minimum criteria? Younger disabled people are facing the same barriers. There is no point to introducing new schemes when the existing ones don’t work.”

Social Security

Concerns were raised about the level of support that is available for disabled people through social security payments and grants. The UK Government recently confirmed that the £20 Universal Credit uplift that was introduced at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic will be phased out at the end of September 2021. In a poll conducted by Disability Equality Scotland, 92% (126 respondents) believed the £20 uplift should remain in place.

“Anyone who has had to battle with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for disability benefits will know the current UK government seems hell bent on making the lives of disabled people as difficult as possible. Expecting the same government to suddenly change this and treat us with respect and dignity is not believable.”

“Boris Johnson is removing money from the pockets of disabled people through the cut to Universal Credit. Those who are fortunate enough to be able to work will lose out through the increase in National Insurance.”

“With the state of the benefit system there’s a lot more that all the governments in the UK could do to make things better for disabled people.”

Transport

There were specific comments from respondents about the accessibility of public transport. Disabled people reflected on the lack of accessible spaces that are available on buses and trains. There was also recognition that transport is a policy area that is devolved to the Scottish Government, and not all of the actions that are featured in the National Disability Strategy will be applicable to Scotland.

“Concerning rail travel, I hope they can do something as we are getting let down and refused entry on trains due to no wheelchair spaces. I normally get the train from Stirling to Blackpool every year but this year not one train had a wheelchair space available which has left me having to make alternative arrangements to get to my holiday which was postponed from last year.”

“Some buses are not suitable for more than one disabled person and their carer at a time, so how are they going to resolve that? There is almost no rail to take people, and most stations are not really suitable for disability.”

“As a disabled person, I get free bus travel anywhere in Scotland. But long-distance bus operators such as Scottish City-Link and Stagecoach Megabus, Parks of Hamilton and National Express provide non-accessible toilets on their buses. By contrast, ScotRail trains do have accessible toilets. I suggest that all disabled people who qualify for free bus travel in Scotland should also get free rail travel.”

“Transport is devolved in Scotland, but in the strategy, I don’t see any real mention of the policies that are relevant to Scotland.”

Implementing the Strategy

There were comments from respondents who believed the actions featured in the strategy would make a difference to disabled people. However, this was countered by respondents who questioned whether the commitments would result in meaningful change. To achieve this, there has to be significant investment across a number of different policy areas. One respondent highlighted the importance of ongoing engagement with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).

“It would seem to be a step in the right direction and enable those with disabilities to have the assistance they need.”

“The more help and assistance available must be good news and helps to normalise disability. I think it will become more a part of society in a positive way.”

“Sounds good on paper, but it needs to be backed up by substantial financial investment from the UK government across a wide range of policy areas.”

“Overall, I think that idea behind this is good however it needs to be looked at in great detail before it goes much further and disabled organisations across the UK should be involved in doing so.”

“This will be like all government policies, more words than action.”

“Our team think it is good in words, but will this convert to actions?”

Conclusion

A mixed response was received with regards to whether the National Disability Strategy will make a difference to disabled people across the United Kingdom. A portion of respondents believed that many of the actions that are featured in the strategy are already covered by existing policies and legislation. Specific comments were raised about various aspects of the strategy, with a number of respondents highlighting that more needs to be done to ensure disabled people find suitable employment. In addition, fears were raised about the support that is available through social security payments and grants, with particular concern about the recent decision to phase out the £20 uplift for Universal Credit. Respondents also raised comments about the accessibility of public transport. However, it was recognised that not all of the actions featured in the strategy are applicable to Scotland, as areas such as transport are devolved to the Scottish Government. Some respondents believed that the strategy has the potential to make a difference. In order for this to happen, there needs to be substantial financial investment across all of the policy areas that are referenced in the strategy. It is also vital that disabled people and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) are involved throughout the implementation of the strategy to ensure that change is shaped by the lived experiences of disabled people across the UK.