Budgets come and go and we all tend to remember the ones where promises unravelled within hours. Over time we feel the effects of the bad budgets, the ones that entrench inequality and fail to protect those most in need. What would a good budget look like and going further what would a great one look like?
Good is when everyone’s to rights to basic needs such as an adequate income is safeguarded. Great is when we don’t just spend the country’s wealth fairly but we create it fairly too. Good is when we enable all to participate. Great is when we devote effort to supporting everyone to make a contribution, and give more effort to those who are further behind. Disabled people are an obvious group to deliver a good, or even better, a great budget for. Half of all households living in poverty has a disabled person living in them. It is not surprising therefore, that two in every three users of food banks are also disabled people.
A good budget would be ending the exclusion from work of the one million disabled people the Government has targeted through measures such as defining and delivering inclusive apprenticeship. A great budget would be opening up the economy to even more disabled candidates. Good procurement is ensuring that successful bidders for government contracts operate inclusive recruitment and retention policies but great is when the contractors can report on the numbers they employ and set targets to increase those numbers in proportion with the opportunity afforded by winning the contract. Good is providing support to business but great is when the Government can target that support to disabled entrepreneurs and inventors.
Good welfare policies provide real social protection from poverty or destitution but great welfare policies enable people to try work and return to benefits if it doesn’t work out for them. Measures like the recent eradication of charges to universal credit helplines are good but what would be great would be measures to address the reasons why people had to make the calls in the first place. The Chancellor needs to reduce the six week waiting period for an application for Universal Credit and to reduce to a fortnight the time period for being paid in arrears.
The Chancellor and his fellow cabinet ministers have some important opportunities before them, not least to work together and across Government for disabled people. Philip Hammond has a budget, David Gauke at DWP has a white paper to write in response to “Improving Lives” and Greg Clarke at BEIS has an industrial strategy imminent. Hopefully they are aware that their own equalities advisors the EHRC have just reported that disabled families have been amongst the worst affected by the bad budgets of the last seven years. Setting this alongside the investigation by the United Nations that found the UK had also violated the human rights of disabled people as defined by the UN Convention it would be easy to think that when everything is so bad good is as good as it can get. Yet we in Disability Rights UK are not ready to settle for good when we are told we are a great people who live in a great democracy. Disabled people wont settle for low expectations. We don’t just expect the Chancellor to deliver what’s good and expected but instead what’s right and what’s great.