Key issues for disabled people in Scotland

DAS believes the General Election on June 8th must give greater weight to the issues that affect disabled people. For them, the election could have far-reaching implications, affecting equality and the rights and services that they depend on more than most.

Disability is more common than many people suppose. Around one million people in Scotland have a disability or long term health condition that significantly impacts on their capacity to live independently. That’s as many as one in five people in Scotland today. And almost half of people in poverty are disabled, or live in a household with a disabled person1, while the extra costs of living with disability estimated to average £550 a month2.

Several key areas remain reserved to Westminster and MPs can play an important role in ensuring a more level playing field. Research commissioned by DAS last year showed that already lots of disabled people do not believe they are treated equally in many aspects of everyday life.

Despite some aspects of social security and employment, for instance, being devolved – or in the process of being devolved – to the Scottish Parliament, key issues such as the Access to Work scheme and Universal Credit are still reserved to Westminster.

Policy asks

  • The employment rate for disabled people is lower than for non-disabled people (42.9% compared to 80.1%). There has been talk in Westminster of ‘halving the disability gap’ and we would like to see this laudable aim achieved through action. One step towards achieving this would be to provide additional funding and ensure greater awareness, among disabled people and employers, of the benefits of ‘Access to Work’. There should also be improved clarity and flexibility around eligibility, and additional funding for areas of unmet need identified by the House of Commons Work & Pensions Committee inquiry3.
  • Key elements of social security are in the process of being devolved but it will take a few years for disability benefits to be devolved. In the meantime, assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) must be improved. For instance, assessments should be more personalised to fully capture the impact of the individual’s condition and avoiding irrelevant questions. There should also be a greater role within the assessment for evidence beyond the medical. This would help to improve decision making – a significant number of decisions are being reversed on appeal. We also call for recent changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), introduced earlier this year, to be reversed.
  • Most disabled people have experienced some form of stigma and discrimination. This ranges from very minor incidents to more serious cases of harassment and bullying, and is a key challenge4. The UN has already stated that changes in the UK, such as welfare reforms, have led to "grave and systematic violations" of disabled people's rights, a UN inquiry has said5. We have concerns about legislation which derives from EU directives that have major implications for disabled people. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights for example, which prohibits discrimination on various grounds including disability. This may not apply post-Brexit. It is worth noting that there is not a single mention of ‘disability’ in the ‘Great Repeal Bill White Paper’6. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights7 brings together in a single text all the personal, civic, political, economic and social rights that people enjoy within the EU. In particular, Article 21 of the Charter prohibits discrimination on various grounds, including disability, and Article 26 recognises the right of people with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community. We are calling for assurances that rights like these will be protected following Brexit.9

For more information, please contact Layla Theiner (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 07876 865342).


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