Disabled people have been disproportionately hit by the Government’s cuts to welfare, a report has warned as it outlines how people with disabilities are being “left behind” in society.
A study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) shows welfare reforms have “significantly affected the already low living standards” of disabled people.
The report, Being disabled in Britain: A journey less equal, also found evidence of a lack of opportunities in areas including education and employment, deteriorating access to justice, and a widening pay gap.
In particular, it highlighted how a higher proportion of disabled people have been affected by the controversial “bedroom tax” than non-disabled people.
The under-occupancy charge on social tenancies saw households with a ‘spare’ bedroom hit with a cut to their housing benefit, and was one of the most contentious reforms under the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.
It goes on that at least 47% of housing benefit claimants affected by what Tories dubbed the ‘spare room subsidy’ have a disability.
Combined with the shortage of adapted and affordable accommodation, the reform has resulted in disabled people downsizing, living in unsuitable homes, and facing rent arrears and eviction.
In 2014, 300,000 disabled people were on housing waiting lists in Britain, it suggested.
The reports adds that by May 2018 there will have been a 28% cut in the number of people receiving the new Personal Independence Payment compared with those who would have got the Disability Living Allowance.
The report also found disabled people in the UK are over two times more likely to be living in food poverty than non-disabled.
It reported that 18 per cent of disabled people aged 16-64 across the UK were living in food poverty, compared with 7.5 per cent of non-disabled people.
The findings show progress towards equality for disabled people over past 20 years has been “littered with missed opportunities and failures”, the EHRC said.
The commission said it has highlighted the problems to the United Nations for a forthcoming study of how the UK measures up to international standards on the rights of disabled people.
Chairman David Isaac said:
“Whilst at face value we have travelled far, in reality disabled people are being left behind in society, their life chances remain very poor, and public attitudes have changed very little.
“This evidence can no longer be ignored. Now is the time for a new national focus on the rights of the 13 million disabled people who live in Britain. They must have the same rights, opportunities and respect as other citizens.
“We must put the rights of disabled people at the heart of our society. We cannot, and must not, allow the next 20 years to be a repeat of the past.”
Fewer than half of disabled adults are in work, compared with 80% of non-disabled, and the gap has widened in recent years, said the report.
There was a widening “disability pay gap”, particularly affecting young people and women, said the EHRC.
Andrew McDonald, chairman of disability charity Scope, said:
“It is shameful that in 2017 disabled people continue to face such high levels of inequality at home, at school and at work. And Scope research shows too many continue to face prejudice day in, day out.
“Government action has been incoherent. While there have been some positive commitments, the impact of recent reductions and restrictions to benefits and inaction on social care threaten to make life harder for many disabled people.
“We hope this report serves as a wake-up call. If the Government is serious about shaping a society that works for everyone, the Prime Minister should act now to set out a cross-departmental strategy to tackle the injustices disabled people face.”
A Government spokesman said:
“We are committed to ensuring that a disability or health condition should not dictate the path a person is able to take in life. The UK is a world leader in this area and we are proud of the work we do to support people with disabilities and health conditions, to increase opportunities and tackle inaccessibility.
“Not only do we spend over £50 billion a year to support disabled people and those with health conditions - more of our GDP than Japan, Canada and France - we also offer a wide range of tailored and effective support.
“Our focus is on helping disabled people find and stay in work, whilst providing support for those who can’t.”