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The Burning Injustice For Disabled People Living In Poverty

04/07/2017 08:03
Scope

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The Conservative manifesto pledged to confront the burning injustice of disability discrimination.

But instead of using this Queen's Speech to introduce legislation to tackle this injustice, the Speech omitted key commitments from the Conservative manifesto which would have led to positive change.

Instead of radical reforms and policies that can make change happen, disabled people were cut out of the social care debate, removed from the government's employment policy and there was no indication on how it would tackle the extra costs disabled people face.

As the government continues to drag its feet on these important issues, every day millions of disabled people struggle to make ends meet.

The financial penalty of being disabled

Research shows far more disabled people are likely to live in poverty than non-disabled people, twice as likely to be unemployed and face staggering extra costs - amounting to an average of £550 a month, simply because they are disabled.

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Last week we learned disabled people are resorting to crowdfunding for wheelchairs - relying on complete strangers to fund basic equipment they need to live independently.

And when wheelchairs can cost in excess of £10,000, it's no surprise thousands of disabled people are struggling to afford them.

Too many disabled people are living hand to mouth and in some cases, not able to feed themselves or their families at all. Half of households referred to foodbanks include a disabled person, which stresses the scale of this finical crisis.

Struggling to cope with extortionate energy bills

But it's not just the weekly food shop forcing disabled people below the poverty line. Sky high energy bills are forcing many to skip meals or borrow money in order to keep up with payments.

Disabled people frequently have to use more energy because they can be less mobile, need to regulate their body temperature, or have to charge specialist equipment.

Sarah Jane from Surrey, has a visual impairment, epilepsy and arthritis. She told Scope how she fell into debt trying to cope with extortionate energy costs:

"I'd say my energy bills are doubled because of my impairment. At first you could maybe cook a meal a day and have a hot bath but now we can't do that. We'd reached a point where we absolutely couldn't keep up with costs. It was always a question of putting the lights on or paying the rent. The heating was one of the first things to go. We went without heating for years. If you're worried about turning the light on or being able to cook a meal for your family, it's devastating."

Sadly, Sarah Jane is not alone, Scope research highlights a third of disabled people have been forced to cut back on energy consumption in the last year alone.

In 2017, these types of living conditions are simply not unacceptable and we need energy companies to start doing much to identify and support their disabled customers, so they are not living in cold.

Barriers to work

We know the best way to lift people out of poverty is through employment, but sadly there are still too many barriers facing disabled people who are pushing hard to get jobs. The government's decision to cut Employment Support Allowance (ESA), will also have a damaging effect on those finding it difficult to get their foot through the door. 

The Conservative party have twice committed to get a million more disabled people in work, but this commitment was all but forgotten in the Queen's speech.

What the government needs to do next

The snap election gave all politicians a chance to think about the future of our country and how it can be shaped to make people's lives better.

But they have missed a perfect opportunity to reassure millions of disabled people about the issues that matter to them most.

If the government is committed to ending the burning injustice of disability discrimination, we need to see urgent reforms to close the disability employment gap, ensure our welfare system adequately supports disabled people, and a real commitment to tackling the financial penalty of disability.

HuffPost UK Lifestyle has launched EveryBody, a new section calling for better equality and inclusivity for people living with disability and invisible illness. The aim is to empower those whose voices are not always heard and redefine attitudes to identity, lifestyle and ability in 2017. We'll be covering all manner of lifestyle topics - from health and fitness to dating, sex and relationships.

We'd love to hear your stories. To blog for the section, please email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with the subject line 'EveryBody'. To flag any issues that are close to your heart, please email natasha.hinde@huffingtonpost.com, again with the subject line 'EveryBody'.

Join in the conversation with #HPEveryBody on Twitter and Instagram.

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