Welcome to 2019!

Happy New Year! I hope this finds you well and rested from the festive break.

I wanted to kick off the year with a round-up of what we’ve been up to – with your support – in the past year, and to let you know what’s coming up in 2019.

A photo of Diane Lightfoot in front of a window

Diane Lightfoot

2018 was a year of some great events: we began with our President’s Group Reception in February, hosted by our Member the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in their wonderful Locarno Suite, and supported by our brand new Partner, Sopra Steria Recruitment. Hot on its heels came our Annual Conference ‘Disability in the Modern Workplace’, supported by our Partner HSBC where we debated everything from career development to the future of work and the role of technology within it, swiftly followed by our Film Festival, supported by our Founder Leader Barclays and once again hosted by our Partner KPMG where we saw some amazing films on our theme of Going Places.

A picture of a director's chair

Our annual Film Festival, hosted by KPMG and sponsored by Barclays

Even hotter on its heels (literally; it was the hottest day of the year though that is hard to imagine on a cold grey January day!) came our summer Partner Reception, hosted by our Partner RBS, and themed around our “Identity” campaign. Our guests really enjoyed the breath-taking indoor garden and the opportunity to explore the theme of identity with our resident silhouette artist!

An indoor tree with people around it at the Partner Group Reception
Partner Group Reception

Then, in the autumn weeks, we returned to the fabulous Locarno Suite at the FCO for our Disability Smart Awards, supported by our Founder Leader, Barclays, and co-hosted by Paralympian and celebrity MasterChef finalist Stef Reid. I am also delighted to announce that Barclays will also be sponsoring the 2019 Awards so watch this space for more information on the Awards to enter this year and the opening date for entries.

Locarno Suite, an audience faces Paulette Cohen from Barclays

Disability Smart Awards 2018 at Foreign & Commonwealth Office

We finished the year by returning to RBS – this time in Scotland – in December for our Annual Scottish Conference, on the theme of Identity. Our packed programme included the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, Jamie Hepburn MSP, Deaf comedian Steve Day – fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe, and the incredible Dr Caroline Casey, founder of the #Valuable campaign, which we are delighted to be working with as an Expert Partner by providing practical support and advice to businesses which sign up.

Dr Caroline Casey on stage

Dr Caroline Casey CEO, Binc

Our global activity went up a gear too with the launch of our new Global Taskforce co-chaired by our Partner Shell and the creation of our new Business Disability Framework which we launched at the DfID summit in July together with our Partner PWC and which I presented the new Global framework at the ILO’s annual Global Business Disability Network conference in October.

We engaged in a huge range of policy and influencing work, including not only responding to consultations (8 in 2018 with another 7 already in the pipeline for January) but being specifically invited to contribute to the Work and Pensions Committee’s targeted call for evidence on the Disability Employment Gap and the United Nations Special Rapporteur’s inquiry into poverty and human rights in the UK. We have also engaged with the Work and Health Unit and with the Lord Holmes Review of Public Sector Appointments – in which our submission was quoted nine times! – and will be continuing this work in 2019. As always, our policy positions and insight are shaped by the experiences of our Partners and Members and so our huge thanks for sharing your insights with us to help inform our responses.

Closer to home, we carried out a programme of in-depth interviews with our Members and Partners which has provided some rich and very helpful insights on how we work with you. We will be using this insight to shape and relaunch our offer later this year and I will be writing again shortly with a themed series on your feedback and what we are doing as a result.

So, what’s coming up in 2019?

We kick off the year with the launch of some brand new resources: five new impairment-specific briefings, sponsored by our Partner HSBC and covering (respectively): Asthma, HIV and AIDS, Muscular Skeletal conditions, Bowel conditions and Epilepsy. We will also be launching two other brand new guides: ‘Welcoming Disabled Customers’, sponsored by our Member Merlin, and ‘Making Meetings Matter’.

And a few more meeting/event dates for your diaries:

It’s already shaping up to be a really exciting year and I look forward to working with you all as we join together to create a truly #DisabilitySmartWorld.

Best wishes and happy new year!

Diane

happy new year 2019

 

Disability in Scotland: exploring identity

By Ebunola Adenipekun, Business Disability Forum

“Never underestimate the power of each of us telling our truth.”

This was the rousing call to action of Dr Caroline Casey, Founder of Binc., at Business Disability Forum’s Scottish Conference “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity” on Tuesday 11 December 2018.

Generously supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland, the event was hosted in their Gogarburn Headquarters in Edinburgh and looked at all aspects of identity and disability.

Dr Caroline Casey on stage with a slide that says: "Dr Caroline Casey CEO, Binc"

Dr Caroline Casey, Founder of Binc.

In 2017 Caroline launched #Valuable – a worldwide ‘call to action’ for business to recognise the value and potential of the 1 billion people living with a disability and position disability equally on the global business agenda and at the conference.

Dr Casey announced that Business Disability Forum will partner with her #Valuable campaign – where the mission is to activate the business community to tackle disability exclusion around the world.

Other highlights from the day included:

Duncan Young, Director of Business Communications at RBS said: “We’ve come to realise that if we’re placing customers at the heart of our organisation, then our organisation needs to reflect our customers. So, being diverse and inclusive, reflecting the society in which we operate, is essential. It’s a fairly easy thing to say, but it’s not necessarily an easy thing to properly deliver. That’s why it’s really important that we partner with organisations such as Business Disability Forum.”

Duncan Young, Director of Business Communications at RBS on stage

Duncan Young, Director of Business Communications at RBS

“Whether it’s sexual identity, mental health, or disability, we’ve shared some individual stories which have created new levels of awareness among the wider staff population, and which have generated some really inspiring conversations as a result. As a member of staff at RBS, I’m really proud that we’re having these conversations.”

Audience at Disability in Scotland: exploring identity

Audience at Disability in Scotland: exploring identity

The people behind the job title

Business Disability Forum brought the podcast series ‘The people behind the job title’ live to the stage. The panel was led by Bela Gor, Head of Campaigns and Legal Business Disability Forum with panellists Dr Aurora Constantin, Research Associate at University of Edinburgh, John Brady, Customer Manager at RBS and Caroline Eglinton, Access and Inclusion Manager at Network Rail. Aurora said: “I find you always have to convince people about your abilities. Also, the physical challenges, like the fact that sometimes I encounter problems moving  around in my job, it that takes a lot of time to arrange everything, to arrange assistance. These are my main challenges, I think… the procedures are tedious. You have to call, write, e-mails, double check that everything is all right when you travel, when you go somewhere. Not only when you travel long distances. By train or plane, and when I need to move from one building to another, I have to be sure that I have accessibility there. Sometimes the procedure is long and it takes a lot of time to discuss my needs with other people.”

Bela Gor, Head of Campaigns and Legal Business Disability Forum with panellists Dr Aurora Constantin, Research Associate at University of Edinburgh, John Brady, Customer Manager at RBS and Caroline Eglinton, Access and Inclusion Manager at Network Rail

Bela Gor, Head of Campaigns and Legal Business Disability Forum with panellists Dr Aurora Constantin, Research Associate at University of Edinburgh, John Brady, Customer Manager at RBS and Caroline Eglinton, Access and Inclusion Manager at Network Rail

Caroline Eglinton said: “I think the thing that I like most about my job is that I get to impact how things are done across, working with the railway industry, across the whole business. So, it’s about changing things and how disabled people experience things. So, really seeing things change.”

She added: “I think that people who are not disabled sometimes can’t understand how policies and processes and just attitudes can really impact on your access to things. It’s not just about the physical access all the time.”

John Brady mentioned that in 2011, whilst at another firm he developed IBS, and his manager at the time said: “Well, OK, I’m not going to tell HR that you’ve got a medical problem because that could be really bad for your career if that gets out. That was a really interesting reaction.” He added: “It got worse to the point that I was really quite dysfunctional. It took me the best part of three years to really turn that around and figure out how to manage my IBS. Now I have a very restrictive diet, that manages it 95% of the time. But during those three years really my career took a setback. I was demoted. I lost credibility.”

Caroline told the audience after the death of her brother who had Cystic Fibrosis, which she also has, “I thought – this is ridiculous, we are going about in life trying to hide who we are, to suit other people, I suppose, to make not think less of us. And so, after that, I became the chair of the staff networking for disabled people at Network Rail. And I started telling my story. I started formalising my reasonable adjustments, and sharing this story that, just because you have a health condition that is serious, does not mean that you are any less than anybody else and you should really access the adjustments, you need rather than struggling on without them.”

No half measures

In the discussion “No half measures: getting disability monitoring right”
Business Disability Consultants Ruth Fisher and Adrian Ward addressed the role that data collection plays. Adrian stated: “For me, the importance of encouraging people to share information, to be able to collect this data is, to get your benchmark. Know what your current situation looks like. If you are creating the right culture where people feel they can talk and share and have that discussion about their condition, you are more likely to get the best out of that individual because they are able to come to work.”

Business Disability Consultants Adrian Ward (left) and Ruth Fisher (right) on the stage - they are smiling

Business Disability Consultants Adrian Ward (left) and Ruth Fisher (right)

Scottish Government address

Scottish Government Minister Jamie Hepburn was at the event said: “The Scottish Government will take a leadership role in employing disabled people by introducing a target for the employment of disabled people within the Scottish Government itself. We recognise that we have to ask others to follow and we must demonstrate that leadership ourselves. We will support employers by investing up to £1 million in the formation of a public social partnership, bringing together employers, disabled people’s organisations, the third sector and government to co-produce a range of initiatives piloted to ensure employers are provided with support and expertise that they need to attract, recruit, and retain talented disabled employees. We will improve employers’ ability to hire disabled people by investing 500,000 pounds to develop a pilot aimed at delivering similar support access to work to those on work experience or work trials in this coming financial year.”

Scottish Government Minister Jamie Hepburn

Scottish Government Minister Jamie Hepburn

 

Business Disability Forum posted a photo booth at the event to further bring to life the theme of “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity”. People wrote in one word answer who they are with the caption above “I am”

Business Disability Forum posted a photo booth at the event to further bring to life the theme of “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity”. People wrote in one word answer who they are with the caption above “I am”

Business Disability Forum posted a photo booth at the event to further bring to life the theme of “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity”. People wrote in one word answer who they are with the caption above “I am”

Business Disability Forum posted a photo booth at the event to further bring to life the theme of “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity”. People wrote in one word answer who they are with the caption above “I am”

Business Disability Forum posted a photo booth at the event to further bring to life the theme of “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity”. People wrote in one word answer who they are with the caption above “I am”

Business Disability Forum posted a photo booth at the event to further bring to life the theme of “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity”. People wrote in one word answer who they are with the caption above “I am”

Fresh from the fringe

Post-lunch comedian Steve Day, fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe, brought the afternoon to bittersweet tears with his stories of his father who had dementia and his own story of being deaf. He stated: “I’ve got new hearing aids. For years I couldn’t listen to music. But these are digital. These are like having a computer on each ear. What they do, at 50,000 times a second, they re-assess sound, they try to figure out background noise so speech is more comprehensible to me. I’m normally much funnier in my old hearing aids.”

Comedian Steve Day on the stage

Comedian Steve Day

“I can hear stuff that I haven’t heard for years. I could hear birdsong, for the first time in 40 years.”

On the topic of his father, he stated: “But what happened to my dad has taught me this. Make the most of life now. Make it. People make assumptions… Deafness does not define me.”

Reciprocal mentoring

The reciprocal mentoring panel featured Lynne Highway, HR Director Services and Functions and Jack Farina-Whyman, Reference Data Manger as well as Matt Camichel, Head of Enterprise Solutions and Derek Coughlan, IT Technical Lead. This panel was following on from a career development course held in conjunction with the in-house course Royal Bank of Scotland led in 2017 with help from Business Disability Forum. The group addressed how much each person got out of the scheme. Derek said about Matt: “You’re part of a big organisation and it gave us the opportunity to meet with somebody higher up, not necessarily in your department to give you career coaching and mentoring of what was out there and give you the bigger picture of travel within the bank. One of the first things Matt said, you manage your own career. I was obviously quite interested in assistive technology because I work with it every day. I didn’t realise when I first met Matt he was a sponsor for disability and technology.” Read more about this year’s course and how to apply here.

Bela Gor, Business Disability Forum chaired the panel with Lynne Highway, HR Director Services and Functions and Jack Farina-Whyman, Reference Data Manger as well as Matt Camichel, Head of Enterprise Solutions and Derek Coughlan, IT Technical Lead on stage

Bela Gor, Business Disability Forum chaired the panel with Lynne Highway, HR Director Services and Functions and Jack Farina-Whyman, Reference Data Manger as well as Matt Camichel, Head of Enterprise Solutions and Derek Coughlan, IT Technical Lead

Being the change you want to see

The panel “Being the change you want to see” was led by Ruth Fisher and the panel was Dr Sally Witcher OBE, Jeremy Balfour MSP and Marsali Craig. Some key points were raised about how disabled people are “many and varied” and how important is to make a job description accessible. Sally said: “You have to be creative about doing, achieving equally good job in a very different way.” Jeremy said: “I remember my father many years ago giving advice to another parent who had a child who had a disability.  His advice was – you never take no for your first answer. That is a very helpful narrative to move into that no should never be a blockage. I think we need to challenge it.  I think we need to keep challenging society in business. I think we have to hold people to account.  I think we have to challenge our politicians in regard to what they do. I think we’ve now reached a stage in my experience that people are now signed up to it.”

Dr Caroline Casey on stage

Dr Caroline Casey CEO, Binc

#Valuable

Caroline led the closing speech with a passionate conclusion: “I am a disabled person but I’m also a dangerous dreamer. I’m also a crazy maker. I’m also a freedom seeker, I’m also a dancing Queen, I’m also a believer in magic. I’m also a fantastic hugger, I’m a nightmare to live with. I’m really bad in the mornings because I don’t sleep. I will tell you more than anything what I am, I am a really proud person of this 1.3 billion tribe but this inclusion revolution we are in is not about disability. It is about human inclusion, every human being on this planet has a right to belong as who they are, disability needs to be equally, be at the table.” Read more about #Valuable

Find out more about our events here

Men and mental health: What do you think?

Man with his head in his hands

Parliament’s Equalities Committee is looking at the issues that specifically affect men’s mental health. They are doing this because statistics continue to show:

  • 75 per cent of people who die by suicide are men (this is also the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 50 in England and Wales);
  • 13 per cent of men have a mental health conditions;
  • Men are more likely to become alcohol dependent than women;
  • GP data shows that, for 11-12 per cent of men, the last time they visited their GP was because of continued feelings of stress, pressure or sadness.

Business Disability Forum are responding to this consultation and would like to hear from you have you have any views on the following:

  • What are the most pressing issues affecting men’s mental health and how/why does this differ to the wider population?
  • How does gender stereotyping in society and the media, parent/fatherhood, relationship and finances affect the mental health of men?
  • What should be done (by Government, NHS, local authorities, for example) to improve men’s mental health?
  • What are the specific issues related to men’s mental health in the workplace?

How to share your views with us

We understand this topic might potentially be upsetting or difficult for some people who wish to respond. We’d therefore ask you to consider carefully if you would like to respond and, if so, the most comfortable way for you to do so. You can use the following methods to share your thoughts with us:

The deadline for contributions is Thursday 31 January 2019.

Privacy and confidentiality

All contributions, both written and non-written, to this inquiry will be kept entirely confidential. Only our Head of Policy (Angela Matthews) has access to the policy email inbox during this inquiry for this purpose. We will not name individuals in our response, and we will only name businesses who contribute if they request us to do so.

If you have any questions, please contact Angela on policy@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk

Are you a small or medium-sized business? Let’s talk!

Small business

We have been considering what a package of support could look like for small and medium sized businesses with under 250 employees (SMEs). Before we go any further we would like to hear from SME businesses themselves about the type of information and support they would value the most from us.

Why is disability important for businesses?

There are over 26 million people in the UK with a disability or long-term condition. They already impact on your business: they are your customers, your employees, your suppliers and your stakeholders.

  • Your customers: The ‘Purple Pound’ is now often referred to as the potential spending power of disabled people. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reports that households with a disabled person have a combined income of £249 billion after housing costs. There is evidence to show people with disabilities are often ‘repeat’ customers when they get the service and products that meets their personalised needs.
  • Your employees: All businesses need to remove barriers to employment and career progression to ensure they are recruiting from the widest pool of talent available. They should also observe best practice in terms of support, retention and progression of all their staff, including those with disabilities and long term conditions.


What do we need from the research?

This is a piece of developmental research and not a sales call. This is an exciting project for Business Disability Forum and any help you can give us in terms of ideas for further development will be greatly appreciated.

Ideally we would like to speak to someone in a senior managerial position in your organisation with responsibility for your employees or general business development for 30 minutes over the phone. Karen Cutts, Research and Insights Manager at Business Disability Forum,  will be undertaking the interviews as tele-depths. We can schedule the interview at a time that suits you.

If you are happy to help us please contact Business Disability Forum directly on the email address below to say you have opted in to the research. We will then select a number of businesses to take part and be in touch to set up a time and give more details.

Telephone Karen Cutts on: 020 7089 2482

Email: policy@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk

All your comments will remain anonymous and you will not be identified in any way in the data or report. The report will be for internal use only at Business Disability Forum and their stakeholders who are helping fund and build this service.

We are hoping that interviews would be completed between now and mid-January.

If you have any immediate questions relating to the project please do not hesitate to contact us using the details above.

Thinking globally about disability and business

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Our Global Taskforce met for the first time in September 2018

By Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive, Business Disability Forum

To mark the United Nations International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD), I wanted to share some of the things we have been doing at Business Disability Forum over the past few months to get disability on the global stage.

Forty-five per cent of our members are global or have some sort of international presence. Together, they employ over 8 million people across the world. Many have a presence in developing countries where there is a real opportunity to realise the theme for this year’s IDPD: that is, of “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.”

We upped the ante on our global focus in earnest earlier this year, with the launch of our new Global Taskforce, co-chaired by Shell, back in April. Since then, it has developed into a lively and collaborative community of global businesses including Accenture, Barclays, GSK, EY, Microlink, Unilever, KPMG and more. As with all our Taskforces, it’s a forum where organisations can share best practices and also challenges – a “safe space” to talk about what’s not working and how we might work collectively to fix it.

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Our Global Framework, released in July, uses a scoring system to assess practice

When I first spoke to Partners to moot the idea of a global taskforce, they told me that they didn’t want “another talking shop”. So, the taskforce has been deliberately “action – task!” oriented. We began with the development of our new Global Business Disability Framework, based on our UK based Disability Standard and reframed as a “maturity model” as a self-assessment tool for global leads. We were delighted to launch the Framework at the UK Government’s Global Disability Summit back in July 2018 and it is now being used by global organisations to measure and improve their corporate approach to disability inclusion.

Next year will see the taskforce publish research, create a comprehensive suite of guidance tailored for global business and develop the next iteration of the Global Framework.

We’ve also been on tour! In the last few months we’ve spoken at conferences and held meetings in France, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.

I and my colleagues Brendan and Delphine were very pleased to attend the ILO Global Business Disability Network (GBDN) conference in Geneva last month where I presented our Framework and continued to build our collaboration with the ILO. We really enjoy our partnership with the GBDN and encourage our members to work with them, especially by using their global presence to support the establishment of national business and disability networks in the countries where they are present. We were really pleased to see the Bangladesh network doing well, a new China network just launched and a network in India due to launch in 2019. With that in mind, we were also delighted to host a delegation from the Ministries of Inclusion, Education and Human Rights in Brazil at our London office.

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The conversation around disability is shifting to cities all over the world

I was also lucky enough to join our member CAFE – the Centre for Access to Football in Europe – in Bilbao a couple of weeks ago to speak at their triennial conference at the San Mames stadium. It was a fabulous event in a stunning city and a privilege to talk to such a diverse audience about how the beautiful game can make a real difference to disability employment.

Fittingly, the most recent meeting of our Global Taskforce was on Friday (30 November) hosted by our Founder Leader Barclays at which we discussed strategic approaches to improving disability inclusion globally and how to communicate effectively with a global internal and external audience. Central to this is our partnership with and support to the #Valuable campaign which is seeking to get disability on the agenda of global boards worldwide and we were delighted when Unilever CEO Paul Polman announced our collaboration on stage at One Young World in October.

So, as we celebrate IDPD today with a whole host of events across the world, let’s hope that this is just the start of really shifting the dial on the inclusion of disabled people worldwide.

For more information on Business Disability Forum’s Global Taskforce and the Global Business Disability Framework, visit: https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/membership/global-taskforce.

Poverty and disability in the UK: the potential impact of Brexit

Rain

By Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer, Business Disability Forum

In my third and final blog in our series on poverty and disability in the UK, I look at the very topical issue of Brexit and its potential impact.

I have written these blogs to coincide with the UN Rapporteur on Extreme poverty and Human rights’ current visit to the UK. The implications of Brexit on poverty is a key issue that the rapporteur has been considering during his two-week long visit. Business Disability Forum was one of the organisations asked to submit evidence on this and other issues affecting income levels of disabled people to Philip Alston ahead of the trip.

At the time of publishing, the Brexit negotiations seem to be in ever more turmoil. Given this, and how much is at stake, we questioned our timing for this blog, but felt that whilst the bigger picture remains deeply uncertain, it’s vital that we continue to represent the rights of disabled people and ensure that they do not become a casualty of this uncertainty.

It should also be noted that our concerns over Brexit, expressed here, do not relate to the decision to leave the European Union. On this we remain neutral. Instead it is the unintended consequences of the mechanisms being used as part of the Brexit process which have and continue to concern us and many other disability and human rights groups.

Here is what we said.

 

The impact of Brexit legislation on accessibility

Research undertaken by Business Disability Forum in February 2018 showed 39 per cent of businesses feel there would be no change to disability related legislation post-Brexit, and 47 per cent did not feel Brexit would have any impact on disabled people’s opportunities[1].

We are concerned, however, that this may well not be the case should the Trade Bill 2017-19 (currently, at time of writing, at the House of Lords Committee stage) complete its journey through parliament without the addition of significant safeguards.

As it stands, the Bill currently allows ministers to change a wide range of laws without Parliamentary scrutiny in order to implement international trade agreements. One of the Acts affected by this is the Equality Act 2010, which secures many rights for disabled people.

Without safeguards added, the Trade Bill will, for example, permit specific aspects of the Equality Act 2010 to be immediately suspended should accessibility requirements make doing trade deals difficult. In effect, it could allow accessibility for disabled people to become an optional, disposable element of any contract the UK enters into if it would further trade. Such wide ranging powers to change primary legislation by the Executive and without Parliamentary scrutiny is unprecedented and hugely concerning. The current Government has provided assurances that protections enshrined in law for over twenty years will be protected but we cannot be sure that such assurances will be respected by any future Government. Rights this important must be protected by our democratic processes and any changes scrutinised by elected representatives of the people including disabled people.

 

Wider context

Why are we highlighting such a seemingly technical point such as the potential effect on vehicle accessibility regulations of the Trade Bill in the midst of all the many difficult aspects of the Brexit negotiations? Trade is of course vital to the future prosperity of the UK and we are not suggesting that the country’s ability to enter into good trade deals should in any way be hampered. What we are saying is that no agreement post Brexit or at any time should be at the expense of the rights of some of the most disadvantaged people in our country. The UK has been a leader in protecting the rights of disabled people and now is not the time to allow any roll back on that leadership role or to allow anyone else to do so in the future.

The Trade Bill is completing its passage through parliament, at a time when UK-wide scrutiny into disabled people’s experiences of public transport has found that disabled people are already greatly disadvantaged by the standard of public transport in the UK. Since 2013, Select Committees and All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) in the UK[2] have looked at the competence of transport to meet the needs of people with disabilities in the UK. In addition, the Department for Transport also led a major consultation on accessible transport this year, which led to the publication of the UK’s ‘Inclusive Transport Strategy: Achieving Equal Access for Disabled People’ in August.

 

The effect of inaccessible transport on employment and poverty

 The Government recognised the barrier that inaccessible transport represents to disabled people getting and staying in work, in its ‘Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health and Disability’ strategy[3].

Feedback from Business Disability Forum members and partners shows that workplace adjustments related to transport (for example, travelling to work, and travelling to meetings, or between ever-growing ‘multi-sited’ workplaces) are some of the most commonly requested adjustments we see employers making for employees, due to them experiencing difficulties with inaccessible or a lack or inclusive travel. These are matters we are trying to address through our current Going Places campaign.

We have also seen an increased number of calls to our Advice Service since Access to Work, the UK Government’s scheme for providing funding support to businesses to help cover the cost of adjustments, decreased funding available to cover transport-related support for disabled employees. In these cases, employees have had to have some of their work duties reallocated to another employee, change roles completely, or even reduce their hours.

 

Social isolation

But it is not only access to employment opportunities which is affected by the availability of accessible transport, but social inclusion generally. Without suitable transport on offer, disabled people are at greater risk of social isolation as they become cut off from vital networks and community and healthcare services.

They are also less able to access shops and businesses, which in turn has a knock-on effect on the economy.

 

Making accessibility a priority

The UN rapporteur is set to conclude his visit today. As he issues his interim findings, we hope that issues such as accessible transport and its implications for the life chances of disabled people are acknowledged and addressed, and legislation such as the Trade Bill, reviewed.

Disabled people are at far greater risk of poverty than non-disabled people, due to the factors covered in this series of blogs. This visit has enabled us to raise awareness of these issues. Let’s hope that the rapporteur’s final report, due next year, will offer some solid recommendations which lead to positive change.

 

 

[1] See https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/media-centre/news/press-release-businesses-unprepared-for-threats-to-disability-rights-post-brexit-survey-finds/ [Accessed 10 September].

[2] For example, the Transport Committee (2013-2014); Young Disabled People’s APPG (20152-16); APPG on Disability (2018).

[3] Published by the Department for Work and Pensions (2017).

Poverty and disability in the UK: the role of the welfare system

 

derelict housing

By Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer, Business Disability Forum

As the UN Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights makes further visits as part of his fact-finding trip to the UK this week, we continue our blog series looking at poverty and how it affects disabled people. Today, we will be looking at the impact of the welfare system.

Business Disability Forum is one of the organisations that was asked to submit evidence to the UN Rapporteur ahead of his visit.

This is what we said about the welfare state and how it affects the life chances of disabled people and in turn the businesses they work for and do business with.

 

The need for an effective welfare system

Over a million disabled people, both in work and out of work, rely on income from the welfare system to help them meet basic living costs. There are several reasons for this.

As we looked at in our first blog in this series, at 51 per cent the employment rate for disabled people in the UK is far below the national average, meaning that disabled people are far more likely to experience poverty and need financial assistance than non-disabled people. In addition, those who are in paid employment may need to work fewer hours due to the nature of their disability or long-term condition, and therefore may need to top-up their income.

Alongside this, there are the additional costs of living with a disability. Research carried out by the Extra Costs Commission in 2015 found that disabled people spend on average £550 per month on disability related costs (such as accessible transport options; specialist or assistive equipment; and having to pay premiums on some types of insurance).[1] A updated report finds that the monthly spend directly related to a disability now stands at an average of £570 per month and, for some, this can reach up to £1,000 per month.[2]

Therefore, the welfare system has a vital role to play in providing financially for disabled people and in reducing poverty.

 

Changes to the system

Although the welfare system is designed to do just that, evidence suggests that the recent changes to the benefits process, particularly over the last five years, have significantly and adversely affected disabled people.

Around 1.6 million disabled people claim the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). PIP replaces the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and is intended to cover the additional daily living and mobility costs experienced by people with long-term health conditions and disabilities.  A recent inquiry by the Work and Pensions Committee reported that many disabled people found the process of claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to be inaccessible. The inquiry evidenced a huge amount of distrust by claimants and detailed how 290,000 disabled people were refused PIP awards on first application but were later granted them on appeal.[3] In addition, a reported 59 per cent of PIP applicants needed assistance with completing the application form.

The roll-out of the new six-in-one benefit, Universal Credit (UC), has also received much criticism in the news recently. Evidence from both parliamentary select committees and think tanks has suggested that without additional investment and structural change, the new benefit could have a detrimental effect on the incomes of claimants, both now and in the future. Issues include claimants falling into debt due to receiving reduced or delayed payments, through to increased use of foodbanks and claimants falling out of the welfare system as a result of an inaccessible online application processes

Additional funding for UC was announced in the Chancellor’s recent budget statement, but even taking this into account, it is estimated that nearly a million disabled people could be worse off on Universal Credit and by more than £200 a month.[4]

Prior and in addition to the introduction of UC, many disabled people have also experienced a reduction in their Housing Benefit (one of the six benefits making up UC), since 2013, due to the introduction of what has become known as the ‘bedroom tax’. The legislation provides less financial support for housing for people who live in accommodation with ‘unnecessary’ additional bedrooms and has meant that disabled people have seen a decrease of 14-25 per cent in the amount of housing benefit they receive.

 

The impact

 The information that we have presented here suggests that changes intended to improve the welfare system, in recent years, have had done little to reduce the risk of poverty for disabled people, and, in fact, have put them at greater risk.

Since we made our submission, new evidence has come to light from the Work and Pensions Select Committee[5] on the negative effect of benefits sanctions on disabled people looking to either enter into work or to increase their working hours, and this really gets the nub of the problem.

The welfare system should be there to help improve the life chances of disabled people, yet there is far too much evidence to suggest that for many it is simply making life harder.

The knock-on effect for business and the wider economy of an ineffective welfare system is twofold. Firstly, it means that at time when many sectors are experiencing a skills shortage, attracting and recruiting talented disabled candidates becomes even more difficult. Secondly, it reduces the spending power of disabled people as potential customers.

Having a welfare system that works and supports those most in need, is of benefit to everyone. We hope that as the UN Rapporteur prepares to issue his interim report at the end of this week, he will address this important issue.

 

[1] Extra Costs Commission (2015), Driving Down the Extra Costs Disabled People Face.

[2] Touchet, A. and Patel, M. (2018) The Disability Price Tag: Policy Report.

[3] Department for Work and Pensions (2018) Personal Independence Payment Claimant Research – Final Report: Findings from three waves of qualitative and quantitative research exploring claimants’ experiences of the PIP claim process.

[4] Disability Benefits Consortium, Statement on Universal Credit Managed Migration Rules, https://disabilitybenefitsconsortium.wordpress.com/2018/11/05/dbc-statement-on-universal-credit-managed-migration-regulations/ [Accessed 5 November 2018]

[5] Work and Pensions Select Committee (2018) Benefit Sanctions