Investigating the Disability Premium
By Kay Allen Commissioner
28th October saw the first round table discussion for the Extra Cost Commission.
For those of you just hearing about this, the Extra Costs Commission is a year-long independent inquiry that will explore the extra costs faced by disabled people, and families with disabled children, in England and Wales.
The commission has been launched in response to research by Scope, which found that disabled people have to pay extra just to live, work and play – on average approx. £550 per month more than people who don’t have to live with a disability.
Examples include having to spend more on everyday things like taxis to work because transport is inaccessible. Paying for very expensive specialist items, like a wheelchair or a hoist or other equipment. Paying more for everyday products and services, like insurance, travel, clothes and cutlery.
Over the next year the Extra Cost Commission panel will look at how businesses, local and national government, as well as the public and voluntary sectors can work in new and innovative ways to tackle this ‘disability premium’.
What did we discuss?
We had a robust discussion looking at the barriers to empowering disabled people as consumers. We looked at what businesses can do to ensure that their practices do not financially disadvantage disabled people and what can be done to help disabled people make the most use of effective purchasing power.
Who did we hear from?
We heard from Declan O’Mahoney, Director at Motability on why the car scheme was so effective at negotiating competitive insurance deals and how VAT could be zero-rated giving huge cost savings. There are clear lessons here on collective purchasing power.
Dr Roger Wicks, Director of Policy & Campaigns at Action on Hearing Loss talked about customers with a hearing loss being excluded from services because some businesses are still failing to accommodate people’s communication needs.
Dr Jasper Holmes from RICA discussed the impact of lack of choice, high prices and lack of good information. He highlighted that we need more customer reviews, better consumer choice and greater influence from disabled customers.
What were some of the issues?
We heard examples such as childcare costing a premium if your child has a disability having a direct impact on parent’s ability to work.
People shared every day issues such as if you can’t prepare food and cook for yourself you have to buy ready meals which are more expensive and more unhealthy.
The very high cost of electric wheelchairs was mentioned as being a barrier to empowering disabled people’s independence to go shopping to find the best deals.
Small businesses on the high street also came under scrutiny for poor access, again forcing disabled people to drive to shops that were accessible.
These extra costs mean disabled people find it harder to enjoy family life fully, participate and contribute to their local communities, live independently, get into education and training, find and stay in employment, build their own financial resilience and contribute to pensions.
And all of these extra costs are made even harder to manage by uncertainty and changes to benefit payments.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP), introduced from April 2013 to replace Disability Living Allowance, is facing major problems. Many disabled people are experiencing unacceptable delays in receiving these crucial extra costs payments.
Delays in access to the fundamental support provided by government to offset these costs puts disabled people more at risk of financial difficulty. This is especially worrying since IPSO MORI found that disabled people are three times more likely than non disabled people to turn to doorstep loans.
Protecting extra costs payments
In a report called Priced Out, Scope calls for crucial extra costs payments to be protected by a triple lock guarantee, and from the overall cap overall cap on social security spending.
But as well as making sure the support is there, where extra costs can be driven down, they should be. Some things can be very expensive for disabled people, and the Extra Costs Commission wants to find out why.
Huge progress has been made in opening up opportunities for disabled people over recent years. Advances in technology have brought big improvements in independence and participation but all too often these come at a high, sometimes prohibitively high, cost. The inaccessibility of infrastructure and gaps in public service provision can also cause considerable extra costs for disabled people.
We are asking disabled people for their experiences of extra costs, and looking for organisations and individuals to submit formal evidence to the Commission.
We also want to work with experts and practitioners across all sectors to find innovative solutions that drive down extra costs.
Please do share your views #ExtraCosts or get in touch with @Scope or any of the Commissioners
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