Sam Boyle, Policy Officer, Business Disability Forum
At the beginning of September, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, launched the Government’s 2021 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). Next month, on 27 October, the Chancellor will announce his plans for the Government’s spending over the rest of this Parliament.
The Comprehensive Spending Review will be exactly as its name suggests: comprehensive. The Review will establish the individual budgets for each Government department, as well as setting capital budgets up to 2024/25.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Review to the lives of individuals up and down the country. It also comes at a critical juncture, as the Government begins to pivot its focus from the day-to-day spending revolving around the coronavirus pandemic, to mapping out the country’s long-term recovery. The National Disability Strategy, launched earlier this year, brought many welcome commitments which, if enacted will improve the lives of disabled people. However, warm words will not be enough on their own; a serious financial commitment and clear tangible actions to deliver on these promises is now crucial.
There has been concerted media attention focusing on the Government’s bold promise to level up the UK and, in the Prime Minister’s own words: ‘Build Back Better’. If the Government wants to be able to truly deliver on this promise, then building a genuinely inclusive recovery which harnesses the talents and aspirations of all its citizens is crucial.
We have therefore made two specific asks to the Treasury ahead of the Spending Review, based on what our members and disabled people have told us during the last year, which we believe will make a profound difference to the lives of disabled people if they are taken forward.
Technology for Life
Firstly, we have put forward a proposal for a lifetime provision model for assistive technology, Technology for Life, which we believe would radically transform many disabled people’s lives for the better. Our ‘Tech for Life’ proposal seeks to transform the way that disabled people can access and use assistive technology across the UK.
At the moment, the provision of assistive technology across the UK is patchy, with many disabled people having to go through multiple application processes throughout their lives to get the assistive technology that they need. This is particularly the case when changing jobs or moving from education to employment. The process is time consuming, and many disabled people are not getting the tailored support they need when they need it. In other parts of life, assistive technology is not available at all, which results in many disabled people facing barriers to participation across society.
We are asking the Treasury to invest in a financial model that will enable disabled people to get assessed by an assistive technology specialist for support at any stage of their life, when it first becomes apparent that they need it. Our proposal would enable disabled people to keep their tailored equipment or exchange it for more suitable technology when it becomes available.
Reforming Access to Work
We have also asked the Treasury to commit to reforming Access to Work (ATW). Whilst ATW is a vital lifeline for many disabled employees, our members, businesses, and disabled individuals have consistently told us that it has not kept up with the job market and the ways that disabled people and businesses work.
At present, disabled people can only apply to ATW if they are in employment or about to enter a job. This excludes individuals who are actively looking for jobs, and the delay to getting equipment can be extremely detrimental to their chances of finding employment. We have also heard from those accessing the scheme, that it takes too long, and that the recommended solutions given to them are often generic and not suitable for their specific needs.
We are asking the Treasury to reform ATW by:
- Investing in a full process and delivery review of ATW to address the many parts of the scheme that are failing both employers and employees.
- Providing an immediate investment to enable disabled people to apply for ATW when they are applying for jobs or after they have registered with a Job Centre.
- Removing the unfair support cap that is disadvantaging people who need more financial resources to fund their tailored adjustments, such as support workers.
If you would like to learn more about the detail of our policy proposals, they are available on our website. Please do get in touch with us if you have any comments or feedback on our proposal. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org