Background: Inclusion Scotland is a network of disabled peoples' organisations (DPOs) and individual disabled people. Our main aim is to draw attention to the physical, social, economic, cultural and attitudinal barriers that affect disabled people’s everyday lives and to encourage a wider understanding of those issues throughout Scotland. The following are extracts from a Shadow Report that Inclusion Scotland compiled on implementation of the UN CRPD in Scotland which are related to the “social protection” of disabled people. We hope that they will be of use in the Rapporteur’s report to the UN General Assembly.
The Scottish Government has been the devolved government for Scotland since 1999 under section 44(1) of the Scotland Act (1998). Policy areas devolved to Scotland include health, education, social services, housing and transport.
The Scottish Government develops and implements policy, and is accountable to the Scottish Parliament. Local government and the wider public sector in Scotland are expected to work towards achieving national outcomesi set by the Scottish Government.
The central UK Government remains responsible for national policy on all matters that have not been devolved to Scotland, known as matters reserved to Westminster, including taxation, foreign affairs, defense, social security, and trade.
The actions of both the Scottish and the UK Governments have implications for the realisation of human rights for disabled people in Scotland. We have therefore highlighted where responsibility sits in relation to the issues raised throughout our submission.
The UK Government Department for Work and Pensions has systematically failed to consult disabled people on proposed reforms to Personal Independence Payments (e.g. the change to the 20 m rule as cited in point 9.2.2 under art. 9).ii
Disabled Women (art.6)
The Scottish Census 2011 revealed that for all 25+ age groups there are more women than men with long-term health conditions or impairments. Disabled women are disproportionately impacted by current austerity measures within the UK.
Disabled women are less likely to be in full-time employment than non-disabled women;iii but are most likely to be the primary carer as well as the primary home-maker.iv As a result, disabled women are disproportionately and specifically impacted, compared to non-disabled women and men, by UK austerity policy, particularly benefits cuts.
Although disabled women are not disproportionately impacted by cuts to disability benefits when compared with the impacts on disabled men, because they are more likely to be in receipt of a range of other social security benefits (as parents/carers), disabled women are more likely to be disproportionately impacted across the board due to cuts to both disability and non-disability benefits.v
Universal Credit (UC) introduces a single, monthly, household payment. It incorporates a range of previously individual benefits which were paid fortnightly. The change will create budgeting challenges for women who take responsibility for the home, and will be particularly challenging for women with learning disabilities. ‘The household payment under Universal Credit will increase the opportunity to create financial dependency, prevent women from leaving and place women and their children experiencing domestic abuse at increased risk.’vi
Eight in 10 Scottish households affected by the Under Occupation Penalty, more popularly known as the “Bedroom Tax”, contain a disabled person,vii and the higher number of women carers again puts them at a disproportionate disadvantage. Women are also less likely to receive income based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if their partner earns over £16,000 a year, and they no longer qualify for the contributory element of ESA after 1 year. Scottish Government anticipates that this ‘will represent a loss of independent income and increased dependence on their partner’viii.
Disabled Children (art. 7)
The specific needs of disabled children are inadequately addressed and disabled children are more vulnerable to poverty that non-disabled children.
Overall, 1 in 5 children in Scotland live in poverty, rising to 1 in 3 in deprived areas ix Poverty disproportionately affects children with a disabled parent (17% of Scotland’s child population). One in 3 children who live with a disabled adult live in poverty, compared to 19% of children who do not live with a disabled adult.x Under Universal Credit families with a disabled child will suffer a reduced income as Disabled Child Additions are replaced with a Child Tax Credit Disability Premium worth half the value. Across the UK up to 100,000 families with a disabled child could lose approximately £1,500 per year.
The Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People has published research that shows variation across Scotland in the amounts parents and carers are charged for care services their disabled children receive.xi Disabled people believe that care charges are a tax on disability and increase the poverty of families facing benefits cuts and increased living costs.xii
Accessibility (art. 9)
Tougher criteria for disability benefits, cuts in services and increased service charges mean that disabled people are losing support which makes an important contribution to their access to indoor & outdoor facilities and transport on equal terms with non-disabled people.
The roll-out of Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) will result in the loss of financial help with mobility costs restricting disabled people’s access to the built environment. Using DWP projections, it is estimated that by 2018 over 80,000 disabled people in Scotland will lose some or all of the help with mobility costs that they were previously entitled to from Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
Of this, 47,000 will no longer qualify for ‘higher rate’ mobility. One in three of those who currently receive higher rate mobility use it to lease Motability vehicles, and now face the loss of their vehicle. This has severe consequences in Scotland which is a more rural country than England with much greater distances to be travelled to access public, health and retail services for those in remote areas such as the Borders and Highlands & Islands.
In order to qualify for PIP mobility a disabled person must be unable to walk 20 metres unaided.xiii This has been reduced from the previous 50 metre requirement even though 172 out of the 173 organizations responding to a UK government consultation on PIP advised against this change.xiv We are concerned that the consultation was meaningless and that the accessibility needs of disabled people have not been taken seriously. Essential services (such as transport) can rarely, if ever, be accessed within 20 metres of a person’s home.
The recent roll-out of the new PIP for new claimants and existing claimants with a change in circumstances has seen significant delays in processing claims. Some disabled people have had no access to benefits – which has resulted in hardship – for up to 10 months in certain areas of Scotland (Citizen Advice bureaus reported that a typical wait for a decision is around 6 months). Some have had to give up cars. The delays have also had an impact on access to “passported” benefits where entitlement to additional financial and other resources is dependent on qualifying for the passporting benefit.xv
Right to Life (art. 10)
The UK Government’s welfare reforms are jeopardising disabled people’s right to life by increasing the occurrence of suicide after loss of benefits. Research by ICM Research Group found that 20% of GPs reported patients having suicidal thoughts due to stress from the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and appeals process.xvi
The blog ‘Calum’s List’ recorded at least 30 suicides where early welfare reform changes were alleged to have had some culpability.xvii The Mental Welfare Commission of Scotland (MWCS) aired 'major concerns that the WCA is not sensitive enough to capture the elements of mental illness that mean a person is unable to function in a workplace'.xviii It investigated the death of a woman receiving mental health treatment who committed suicide after her Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was stoppedxix and found a number of deficiencies in the way the claimant was assessed and informed of the decision.
A Department for Work and Pension (DWP) response to a Freedom of Information request found that between January and November 2011, 1,300 people died within three months of being found partially fit for work.xx Further, 43% of appeals in Scotland against decisions made in the Work Capability Assessment have been successful,xxi suggesting that a substantial proportion of initial assessments and decisions are wrong.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of a leading UK mental health charity, Mind, resigned from his position on the DWP’s WCA review panel, stating serious concerns that claimants with mental health problems (40% of all claimants) are not having their needs met.xxii
Equal Recognition Before the Law (art. 12)
The right of disabled people to exercise legal capacity on an equal basis with others is being compromised due to the denial of opportunities to make autonomous, binding decisions about the timing and nature of mental health care and treatment.
The UK Government has proposed that Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will be withdrawn from people with mental health issues unless they undertake treatment.xxiii The Mental Health Act (1983)xxiv stipulates that a person must give their permission before they receive medical treatment or examination. This is undermined by the introduction of financial coercion towards treatment, forcing treatment in return for financial support for disability (Article 28 e) where treatment may otherwise be rejected.
Access to Justice (art. 13)
The majority, 70%, of disabled people know little or nothing about their rights.xxv This is compounded by a lack of independent advocacy in Scotlandxxvi and the fact that there are very few places for disabled people to go for targeted legal advice. xxvii
Unlike England, where there are 11 Disability Law Centres, Scotland has no legal services that specialize in disability discrimination. Other services, such as Citizens Advice Bureaus and regional law centres, offer more general support. But without a specific focus on disability, the complexity of issues faced by disabled people can be overlooked. This reduces disabled people’s confidence in, and likelihood of accessing, the advice they need. In spite of improvements in access to Scottish courts, disabled people still face barriers to accessing justice. The cost of going to court is increasing and there is less financial help available. This has proven to be a huge barrier to disabled people bringing cases.
There has been a recent introduction of fees for employment tribunals by the UK government,xxviii creating a financial barrier to justice.xxix ‘There has been a 46 per cent year-on-year reduction’ in disability cases since the introduction of fees.xxx The success rate of disability discrimination cases at employment tribunals is very low, at 3%xxxi in the year 2011-12.xxxii
Living Independently and Being Included in the Community (art. 19)
We are concerned that the cumulative impact of the UK Government’s welfare reforms together with reduced support services and increased charging will reduce disabled people’s capacity to live independently and participate in the community, by eroding the financial resources and services they rely on to do so.
With the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), 90,000 fewer disabled people will be eligible for the standard rate of care. For the mobility element of the benefit, a claimant must be unable to walk 20 metres unaided. This has been lowered from 50 metres. Losing eligibility for disability benefits also means losing eligibility for pass-ported benefits such as concessionary travel, limiting independent living and inclusion.
Further cuts are planned under Universal Creditxxxiii and will heighten the difficulty disabled people experience remaining independent and included in the community. Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and the disability element of working tax credit will both be abolished; and couples will be allowed to claim Carer’s Allowance or Disability Additions, but no longer both.
We are pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to the views of disabled people and taken the decision to keep a Scottish Independent Living Fund open, including for new applicants. The Independent Living Fund for the rest of the UK has been closed, despite a court ruling that the UK Government has breached its equality duty by failing to assess the impact of the closure on disabled people who use the fund.
The Bedroom Tax has also undermined disabled people’s right to independent livingxxxiv by imposing particular living arrangements. In 2013 the DWP dropped its appeal in the court case, Gorry Vs DWP, meaning that severely disabled children are no longer expected to share a room if it is unreasonable for another child to share with them.xxxv However this has not been applied to disabled adult partners.xxxviIn this sense, the state has insisted that couples share a bed/room, or face additional charges.xxxvii
At the end of May 2013, 82,500 households in Scotland were affected by the bedroom tax; and 80% of those households contained a disabled adult.xxxviii There is a chronic lack of suitably adapted one bedroom properties throughout Scotland.xxxix
This makes moving to a shared bedroom situation in many cases unachievable. If disabled people do in fact move, the cost of adapting a new property may counter-balance the supposed benefits of not having to pay the bedroom tax.xl Capability Scotland found that only 5% of disabled people affected by the Bedroom Tax felt that their home was too large.xli
We are pleased that Scottish Government has pledged to mitigate the impact of the Bedroom Tax in Scotland by releasing funds for local authorities to deliver Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) to affected households.xlii However this is a temporary measure. Scottish Government does not currently have devolved powers around welfare spending and we are concerned that the costs will be passed onto disabled people in future.
Health (art. 25)
We are also concerned about poverty levels amongst the disabled population and the negative effects this can have on health. Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people, and 30% already live in relative poverty.xliii Research shows a link between low economic status and poor health. For example, in a study of the most and least deprived residents in Glasgow found lower levels of methylation in the DNA of the most deprived and higher levels amongst the least deprived. Low levels of this chemical are linked to a number of health problems.xliv
A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that ‘health inequalities in Scotland are not only stark but growing. A boy born in the poorest tenth of areas can expect to live 14 years less than one born in the least deprived tenth. For girls, the difference is 8 years.’ It also found that rates of mortality from heart disease are twice as high in deprived areas as the Scottish average; while deaths from cancer are 50% higher and have not fallen in the last decade, despite the average falling by one sixth.
Physically and sensory impaired people have poorer health outcomes because of their isolation and inability to participate in community life. Social isolation, like that experienced by many disabled people poses the same risk to health and life expectancy as heavy smoking.xlv
We are concerned that the UK Government’s welfare reforms are exacerbating the poverty and poor health already experienced by Scotland’s disabled people.xlvi While it is too early for substantive analysis, GPs have warned that the UK ‘may be on the brink of a health and social care crisis the like of which has not been seen for a generation.’xlvii
For example patients who cannot read nor write and who have significant health problems have been found fit for work by the work capability assessment (WCA);xlviii while ‘those with mental health problems, addictions, and cognitive impairment find (the welfare system) confusing and demanding to navigate and, ultimately, damaging to their health.’xlix We also re-iterate our comments under Article 10, that one fifth of doctors have reported a rise in patients with suicidal thoughts as a result of engagement with the welfare system.l This indicates an induced decline in mental health.
Work and Employment (art. 27)
We are concerned that adequate support to help disabled people find and stay in suitable employment is not provided. Disabled people of working age are only half as likely to be in employment as non-disabled people. May 2014 figures reveal that the employment of disabled people has in fact fallen to 44%, while the non-disabled employment rate is 80%.li
The situation is worse for certain impairment groups, for example: Only 13% of adults with learning disabilities who are of working age are in full-time employment or training in Scotland.lii We note areas of good practice supported by the Scottish Government, e.g. programmes such as ‘Project Search’, but we reiterate SCLD’s request to know ‘what individual public authorities are doing to employ people with learning disabilities?’liii
The UK Government closed its supported employment workplaces scheme in 2012. It did not take our advice to ensure that the closure was staggered, with high levels of support for disabled employees to find work or retrain.liv As such, 230 disabled people who worked for five large supported employment factories run by Remploy, have faced an uncertain future since they were made redundant in 2012.lv
The UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions implemented a Work Programme to get people on benefits into training or work. However, having removed 104,000 from Incapacity Benefit, the programme only placed 3.7% in a job lasting more than 3 months.lvi This is a shockingly poor result, especially when considered next to the success of organisations such as the Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living. The Centre funds a professional career service through its European Social Fund, finding 82.4% of those it works with full-time employment; helping 94.1% gain a professional qualification; and helping 11.7% into further education.lvii
The desire to undertake unpaid vocational work is undermined by the fear of being found capable of paid work by the Work Capability Assessment for ESA. Deaf employees who use Access to Work face restrictions on how they can use the fund to pay for freelance interpreters if they need them for more than 30 hours a week.lviii
Right to an Adequate Income (art. 28)
In a report for Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the New Policy Institute has recently found that disability poverty across the UK is consistently underestimated. Using two different adjustments, the study has found ‘at least a ‘missing million’ of people in poverty in households with a disabled person’.lix
While disabled people are twice as likely to experience material deprivation as non-disabled people,lx welfare reform is further undermining their right to an adequate income as a disproportionate amount of the cuts to welfare benefits fall on disabled people.lxi
Our survey revealed that 67% of disabled people felt their income had deteriorated over the last 5 years, while 75% felt they sometimes, rarely or never had enough to live on and 60% feel they currently do not have enough to meet their needs.
Economically poor disabled people are worst affected by cuts to benefits and services, deepening inequality between disabled and non-disabled people even further. The poorest areas in Glasgow are four times worse affected than some of the better off places throughout the rest of Scotland.lxii
SCLD has recently published its ‘Deprivation analysis of adults with learning disabilities known to Scottish local authorities (2013)’, and reportslxiii that ‘adults with learning disabilities are significantly overrepresented in the most deprived areas of Scotland, and underrepresented in the least deprived, when compared with the distribution of the general Scottish population.’
In Scotland 80% of households affected by the Bedroom Tax contain at least one disabled person. The UK Government’s recent report ‘Evaluation of the Removal of Spare Room Subsidy Interim report’lxiv revealed that 60% of UK residents affected by the Bedroom Tax are now in rent arrears, struggling to meet housing costs.
Changes to Incapacity Benefit have cost households on average £3,480 per year; and changes to Disability Living Allowance £3,000 per year so far.lxv They are yet to be implemented fully in Scotland. By 2015 100,000 Scottish disabled people will lose Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) as a result of stricter assessment criteria.lxvi
By 2018, 80,000 disabled people in Scotland will lose some or all of their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) mobility component; and many will subsequently lose their Motability vehicle and their ability to participate in life outside their home. Over 90,000 disabled people who before would have been entitled under DLA eligibility criteria to the lower rate care element, will lose their entitlement as the lower rate of care no longer exists under Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which will replace DLA.
Significant delays to decisions for people applying for PIP since it was launched last year have caused considerable hardship, pushing sick and disabled people into debt and poverty. Many applicants are simultaneously experiencing delays in decisions on their applications for both PIP and ESA, described by CAS as the cumulative impact of disability benefit chaos’.lxvii
When Universal Credit (UC) is rolled out those able to work only part-time due to an impairment or health condition will lose around £40 per week and most families with a disabled child stand to lose £1,500 per year as a result of changes to Child Tax Credits under UC.
Disabled people have already reported cutting back on food and heating; and experiencing stress and reduced personal resilience.lxviiilxix There are concerns about the psycho-social, and sometimes financial, costs of losing access to family, friends, carers and local networks if they have to move home (see also Article 23).
We welcome the Scottish Government’s response to the Bedroom Tax, making an additional £50 million available to local authorities to help mitigate the cost of the penalty through Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs). However, we are concerned about a lack of public awareness around applying for DHPs. We are also concerned that it is not sustainable for the Scottish Government to continue funding DHPs at the expense of funding for other areas that might benefit disabled people’s lives.
Disabled people are having benefits payments ‘sanctioned’ and losing a vital proportion of their income at a disproportionate rate and for arbitrary or deeply unjust reasons. Between July and December 2013 the number of ESA claimants in the work related activity group being sanctioned each month doubled over the 6 month period. 61% of those sanctions were against claimants with ‘mental and behavioural disorders.’lxx There are also some disturbing reports of sanctions emerging. For example:
‘A father with dyslexia, spinal arthritis and COPD was sanctioned for not attending a work-focused interview. He had told the jobcentre in advance that he didn’t have enough money to get to the office, as it was not local to him. He was told to walk to the appointment, but was unable to due to health conditions. He was sanctioned for 13 weeks’.lxxi
Disabled people already face additional costs associated with their impairment. A recent study by the disability charity Scope found that disabled people spend an average £550 a month in disability related expenses (e.g. taxis, increased use of heating and electrical amenities, costs of maintaining equipment, etc.).lxxii The study says: ‘As a result of these extra costs, disabled people:
Are twice as likely to have unsecured debt totalling more than half of their incomelxxiii
Are three times more likely to use doorstep loanslxxiv
Have on average 108,000 fewer savings and assets than non-disabled peoplelxxv
In the 55-64 age-group, the gap in the mean level of private pension wealth is 125,000.lxxvi
iii Metcalf, H., (2009) Pay gaps across equality strands: a review
v http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0043/00432337.pdf ; and see also http://www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/engenderwelfareport_0.pdf
vi Engender Welfare Report http://www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/engenderwelfareport_0.pdf
vii Communities Analytical Services (May 2011) ‘Impact of Planned Housing Benefit changes in Scotland’ Scottish Government www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0041/00414236.doc
x Cf. Family Resources Survey, Households Below Average Income Dataset 2008/09, in
Scottish Government’s ‘Child Poverty in Scotland: a brief overview of the evidence’ http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/304557/0107230.pdf
xi Lancaster, Becki October 2012 ‘Social Work Services for disabled children and young people and their families: Assessment and Eligibility’, research commissioned by The Children and Young People’s Commissioner in Scotland http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/15891/1/sh_Elig_Crit_FINAL_SCCYP_REPORT_29_oct.pdf
xii For more information, please visit the following Scotland Against the Care Tax (SACT) campaign website: http://scotlandagainstthecaretax.org/
xiii Or be unable to plan or follow a journey on one’s own.
xv Citizens Advice Scotland October 2014 ‘Voices from the FrontLine. Personal Independence Payments and the Impact of Delays’ http://www.cas.org.uk/system/files/publications/Personal%20Independence%20Payment%20delays%2C%20Voices%20from%20the%20Frontline%20September%202014_0.pdf
xviii MWCS 2014 Who Benefits? The Benefits Assessment and death of Ms DE
http://www.mwcscot.org.uk/media/180939/who_benefits_final.pdf p. 33.
xix Op Cit.
xx P. 6 DWP July 2012 Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients
xxxiii UC was due to be implemented from October 2013. However, there have been problems with pilots and IT systems involved, and the roll out of the new single benefit to replace a number of benefits (including ESA and housing benefit) has been delayed significantly.
xxxiv Inclusion Scotland understand Independent Living to mean disabled people of all ages having the same freedom, choice, dignity and control as other citizens at home, at work, and in the community. This includes rights to practical assistance and support to participate in society and live an ordinary life.
xliv Ongoing research on the psychological, behavioural and biological determinants of ill-health in Glasgow,‘Socio-economic status is associated with epigenetic differences in the pSoBid cohort’, online at http://gla.ac/yzYmA4
xlv Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B. Smith , J. Bradley Layton (July 2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review, Journal of Plos Medicine.
xlvii See, pp. 18-19 Stage 1 report on the Welfare Reform (Further Provision) Scotland Bill (Welfare Reform Committee, 2012) http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_Welfare_Reform_Committee/Reports/wrr-12-01w.pdf
xlviii See, pp. 18-19 Stage 1 report on the Welfare Reform (Further Provision) Scotland Bill (Welfare Reform Committee, 2012) http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_Welfare_Reform_Committee/Reports/wrr-12-01w.pdf
xlixDeep End Summary 21 (2013) ‘GP experience of welfare reform in very
lvi Incapacity Benefit is the benefit that has been replaced by Employment and Support Allowance. Please see Appendix 1 on the UK Government’s Welfare Reform Act (2012) and Cuts to disabled people’s benefits.
lvii House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts “DWP: work programme outcomes”. Thirty-third Report of Session 2012-13” http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmpubacc/936/936.pdf
lviii British Deaf Association (BDA), 2014, Access to Work Consultation, (by Reynolds, S)
lxii The Local Impact Of Welfare Reform: A report for the Scottish Parliament Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_Welfare_Reform_Committee/Reports/wrR-14-05w.pdf
lxiv DWP Report, July 2014: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/329948/rr882-evaluation-of-removal-of-the-spare-room-subsidy.pdf
lxv Scottish Government report 2014: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0044/00449882.pdf
lxvi The Local Impact Of Welfare Reform: A report for the Scottish Parliament Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_Welfare_Reform_Committee/Reports/wrR-14-05w.pdf
lxvii CAS October 2014 Ibid.
lxviii SAMH March 2014 Worried Sick: Experiences of Poverty on Mental Health in Scotland’ http://www.samh.org.uk/news-resources/latest/worried-sick
lxix Inclusion Scotland Publication pending ‘The Impact of the UK Government’s welfare reforms on Disabled People in Scotland – research report’.
lxx FOI response for statistics on ESA claimants with an adverse sanction decision by ICD Code between Jul 2012 and Dec 2013: GB. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statistics-on-esa-claimants-with-an-adverse-sanction-decision-by-icd-code-between-jul-2012-and-dec-2013-gb
lxxi CPAG’s Early Warning System: Policy bulletin 1a
lxxii SCOPE 2014 Priced Out: Ending the Financial Penalty of Disability by 2020 http://www.scope.org.uk/Scope/media/Images/Publication%20Directory/Priced-out.pdf?ext=.pdf
lxxiii Scope (2013) Disabled people and financial well-being – credit and debt, http://www.scope.org.uk/sites/default/files/Credit%20and%20Debt.pdf
lxxv McKnight A. (2014) Disabled people’s financial histories: uncovering the disability wealth penalty, CASE paper 181, http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/case/cp/casepaper181.pdf