This week the House of Commons debated a motion calling for a cumulative impact assessment of the impact of recent changes in policy affecting disabled people. This means reviewing all the ways that disabled people may have been affected by things such as bedroom tax and benefit cuts. The motion was put forward at an Opposition Day debate. On most days when the House is sitting, the Parliamentary agenda is set by the Government of the day. Opposition days allow opposition parties to choose the subject for debate and, on Wednesday, the Labour Party decided to have the following motion:
That this House believes that the Government should publish, by October 2013, a cumulative impact assessment of the changes made by the Government that affect disabled people.
In the last few years there have been a range of changes in policy and law that Aspire believes has had or is due to have a significant impact on the lives of people with Spinal Cord Injury.
· The benefit change scrapping Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and replacing it with Personal Independence Payments (PIP) where, from the Government’s own estimations, 500,000 fewer individuals will be in receipt of PIP by 2015/16 compared to what would have happened under DLA.
· Time limiting of Employment Support Allowance (ESA), where disabled people who receive the contributory benefit and are in the support group of ESA will have their benefit removed if they haven’t found employment in 52 weeks.
· The scrapping of the Independent Living Fund (ILF). Our own care research found that 14% of all care hours received by people with Spinal Cord Injury are provided through ILF.
· New under-occupancy changes, better known as the Bedroom Tax, where people will be financially penalised for having rooms deemed spare. This will not take into account couples not able to share rooms because of heavy or noisy machinery, such as ventilators needed for people who have higher level injuries and need breathing assistance, or space needed to store and use equipment such as standing frames.
· Cuts to local authorities; with some councils reporting reductions in their budget of up to 40%. A huge chunk of council spending is on social care, so this is bound to affect local social care services.
Equality impact assessments were introduced through the Equality Act 2010 to make sure officials took account of disability, gender and race in their decisions. This has been done for the decisions taken by Government mentioned above. However, the impact of all these changes, all happening at the same time, has not been looked at.
Given that each of these changes do not happen in isolation to individuals, surely we need to take a wider look at the impact of these multiple changes on the lives of disabled people? Aspire believes it makes perfect sense to have a wider stock take of the impact on disabled people in the form of a cumulative impact assessment.
The motion was not passed by Parliament as it was defeated by a majority of votes from MPs. We are concerned with the outcome as we would have thought that MPs of all parties would find it worthwhile to look at the overall impact of changes that have been introduced. It is important that decision makers know about the whole impact of their decisions and this assessment would have helped to identify if the fears that many people and disabled people’s organisations were having were valid or if things were working well for disabled people and we had nothing to worry about.
Aspire, and I am sure that other groups that work with disabled people, will continue to support the case for a wholesale look at these reforms on disabled people from Government. We will be further raising the matter to MPs and Ministers and would like to encourage you to write to your own MP about this too. If you would like help on how to go about doing this, contact me on 020 8420 6702 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.orgKrupesh Hirani, Policy and Research Officer